We gave it an F
While hopping out of a car during the filming of Evan Almighty — the follow-up to 2003’s megahit Bruce Almighty — something terrible happened to Steve Carell. He twisted an ankle. ”It’s true. I got a boo-boo. It swelled up,” says the actor, whose bit as smarmy TV anchor Evan Baxter has become a starring role in this not-quite-a-sequel sequel. Okay, so the injury wasn’t that remarkable — but what happened next was. News of Carell’s twisted ankle was picked up by the Associated Press and Hollywood blogs, which started sniping about the Job-like curses reportedly raining down on this ultraexpensive 21st-century retelling of Noah’s ark, including a fire on the set last October. ”No one’s cared that much about my twisting an ankle in my life,” marvels the actor.
Welcome to the world of tentpole pictures, Mr. Carell! Universal is betting that the Almighty franchise can thrive with the suddenly hot comic and without the marquee stars — Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston — who helped push the spiritually tinged original to a $243 million gross. When Carrey opted out of the sequel, the production was grafted onto a three-year-old script called The Passion of the Ark and centered on Carell as the titular newscaster-turned-politician-turned-biblical seer — with Lauren Graham joining as his wife and Morgan Freeman returning as the all-powerful One. The result? A family-friendly movie packed with cutesy animals that ”is much sweeter than the first,” according to Graham.
Of course, what wasn’t sweet was working with all that fauna. The budget reportedly swelled to $175 million because of the complexity of wrangling hundreds of animals, along with the shockingly high going rate for CGI floods these days. That price tag earned Evan Almighty a very unwanted media designation as the Most Expensive Comedy Ever Made and means it will be very hard for the film to turn a profit. Perhaps Universal can take some comfort in the half billion dollars-plus that Night at the Museum, another PG-rated, CGI-packed comedy, has pulled in worldwide. ”This is a big, effects-driven epic comedy,” says Tom Shadyac, who returns as director. ”In fact, it’s a comedy of biblical proportions!” Sounds like someone just found his tagline. (June 22)