“I don’t need to sit here and explain this movie to you, do I?” So opens the review of Bruce Almighty by Christopher Null of filmcritic.com. He has a point. The film concept is painfully simple, and the point is glaringly obvious. Isn’t it? So, don’t be prepared for a labyrinth of intellectual exploration or profound psychological musings – that would be diving in the shallow end of the pool only to miss the universally obvious – which is the point.
Just about everyone at some time or in some way, maybe deep down (c’mon, fess up), has thought about how life would be better if she were God or if he were in charge just for a day to set things straight. It’s true. Alice Cooper sings the confession for all of us in “I Just Wanna Be God”
I’m in control
I got a bulletproof soul
And I’m full of self-esteem
I invented myself with no one’s help
I’m a prototype supreme
I sit on my private throne
And run my lifestyle all alone
Me, myself and I agree
We don’t need nobody else
I’m just trying to be God
I only wanna be God
I just wanna be God
Why can’t I be God
Maybe watching the rubbery improvisational antics of Jim Carrey as Bruce Nolan, goofy local TV reporter from Buffalo, will cajole us into agreeing: I just wanna be God.
Tom Shadyac (Liar, Liar; Ace Ventura: Pet Detective; The Nutty Professor) unleashes Carrey in a frolicking comic playground, and Carrey delivers nicely. Jennifer Anniston counters as Bruce’s girlfriend, Grace, and her steady and earnest focus keeps the story from skipping across Lake Erie. Morgan Freeman brings an easy and amiable maturity to the setting as God. Sometimes bemused, often genial, at moments sad, Freeman assures us that God is always in control even when he shares his power with Bruce.
The question is simple: Could I do a better job than God in running the world – ok, not the world, just my little corner of the world? The complexity of the world makes the question absurd, yet why do we still want to try? Why do we still keep reaching for the controls? Why do we still keep shaking our fist at God, or our idea of God, when we confront the circumstances of life that don’t go our way or which we think should turn out differently (and certainly would if we were in charge)?
Do we really need someone to explain it to us? If we are even a little bit honest don’t we have to recognize that there are only 2 options: either God is God, or I am God? The truth is that we don’t understand everything that happens in life when God is God. But the alternative, even when we have great power, is that we are selfish and foolish and destructive when we are God. The alternative is laughable, but when we see ourselves on the screen, will we laugh at ourselves?
In the end, Bruce needs 2 people in his life: God and Grace. Is it any different for us?
Questions for discussion:
- If you had the power, what would you change about your life, the world?
- Why are we often angry at God?
- Where do our ideas of who God is and what God is supposed to do come from?
- In what ways have you tried to take control of your life? What have been the results?
- What is success?
- In way does Bruce’s use of power comment on the way you would use power?
- Have you ever discovered in yourself a deeply rooted selfishness? How was it exposed?
- What is grace? How does the theme of grace relate to the moral of this comic parable?