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In the aftermath of the hotly contested 2004 election, pundits and pollsters grew convinced that values, not politics, were the determining factor in George W. Bush’s narrow re-election victory. Voters hungering for old-fashioned, God-fearing values chose the born-again Bush over John Kerry (or so the story went). Religion reemerged as an influential force in mainstream American society, and the trickle-down effect of this electoral revolution extended to pop culture and Hollywood in particular. The filmmaking process being what it is, some of these films are only now beginning to see the light of day, facing a profoundly different political and cultural climate than that of 2004.
While the subject of much media speculation, this is hardly the first time that films have turned to the Bible for inspiration.
The Bible has been a regular guest in movies since their inception, in one of two guises: as moral lesson or as spectacle. In movies ranging from Cecil B. DeMille’s shlock masterpiece The Ten Commandments to Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue, movies and the Bible have gone hand in hand, bringing God’s word, or some modern semblance thereof, to the masses. Two 2007 Bible-themed films–the Steve Carell vehicle Evan Almighty, and the sketch-comedy omnibus The Ten– take their inspiration from the Bible, seeking fun and occasional moral uplift from the Good Book. Their efforts are bumpy at best.
In Evan Almighty, Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) hears God’s voice, and sees his presence everywhere–in Baxter’s SUV, outside his suburban McMansion, in the private sanctum of his Congressional office. Embodied by Morgan Freeman (of course), this is God 2.0– folksy, amiable, and completely personalized. God, as it turns out, is soliciting Evan’s help for a little ark-building project. Without specifying why, and with the “how” clarified by a crisp new copy of Ark Building for Dummies, God politely, but unstintingly, demands complete, unquestioned obedience, and Evan Baxter–husband, family man, Congressman–listens.
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