The biggest laugh in the 2003 comedy Bruce Almighty didn’t come from the movie’s star, Jim Carrey.

It came from a then-little-known Steve Carell, playing a pompous tv news anchor who’s forced to speak some explosive gibberish on the air by Carrey’s jealous reporter, who’s been briefly endowed with God’s powers. Carell’s own star has gone nova since that movie came out, so it’s fitting that he headline the sequel to Bruce, entitled Evan Almighty. However, even though his comic shtick is fresher than Carrey’s at this point, his efforts still can’t dry out this waterlogged comedy that tries for epic scale and turns out to be epically inconsequential. Carell reprises his role as Evan Baxter, who has left his tv job in Buffalo for a successful run for Congress. Soon after he moves his wife (Lauren Graham) and three sons into a handsome new mansion in the D.C. area, he’s visited by God (Morgan Freeman), who asks him to start building a big-ass boat — much like the biblical Noah’s — in his front yard. When Evan dismisses him the way you’d dismiss a stranger claiming to be God, the deity works his juju by making Evan into a magnet for pairs of animals.

This is the beginning of a regrettable pattern, as the filmmakers appear to be laboring under the delusion that Steve Carell + pooping animals = hilarity. This fails to raise any chuckles, as do the parts later in the film when God makes Evan’s hair grow freakishly and forces him to behave ridiculously in front of congressional leaders. Director Tom Shadyac and screenwriter Steve Oedekerk (both holdovers from Bruce) try to soften these already toothless antics with some warm and fuzzy stuff involving God bringing Evan and his family closer together. It’s a hard trick mixing comedy with piety and reverence, and these filmmakers don’t have the touch. The only thing that really distinguishes this movie from the myriad crappy low-budget “family” movies that come out every week is the mammoth CGI special effects that kick in when The Flood, or at least a flood, arrives and makes Evan’s ark seaworthy. The effort that goes into this is laudable, but the sequence isn’t funny or thrilling or compellingly good-looking in its own right. For all its resonance, it might just as well be an outtake from the recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Evan Almighty managed to make me laugh out loud exactly once. It was during the bit over the end credits, when various cast and crew members dance to C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).” That’s an hour and a half waiting for a single laugh. Maybe Heaven can wait that long, maybe even Evan can wait. I don’t have that kind of patience, though. I probably need to ask God for it.


 Evan Almighty Starring Steve Carell, Lauren Graham, and Morgan Freeman. Directed by Tom Shadyac. Written by Steve Oedekerk. Rated PG.