Why “Evan Almighty” Flopped

Mark Joseph over at FoxNews.com reviews the movie-made-for-faith-audiences, “Evan Almighty.” Joseph gives an excellent post-mortem of a movie that did not do near as well as its hawkers had hoped. The best line from the review: “It’s one of the worst cinematic miscalculations this side of Ishtar.” In case you didn’t know, the “Ishtar” comparison is the Scarlet “A” of Hollywood. If your movie gets compared to “Ishtar,” you’ve got a lemon on your hands. You can’t get any lower than “Ishtar.”

Here’s a little more from the review:

Once again the chatter from Hollywood is how, despite another earnest and sincere attempt to make a movie for “those people,” the elusive faith-based audience that came out to see the Passion of The Christ has once again failed to turn out en masse for a movie thought to be tailor-made for them. The problem with such an analysis is that it’s not unlike making a movie featuring blackface and wondering why the African-American audience isn’t interested. . .

Between one of the characters noting with confidence that God is “in everything” (an idea that many religions hold to, but not the Christian one) and the notion that the Judeo-Christian God is primarily concerned not with sin, salvation and redemption but with encouraging “acts of random kindness,” it was clear that if reaching a faith-based audience was the goal, this one was off by a mile.

Then there was the show-stopper: when, as the credits rolled, “Noah” held up a replica of the Ten Commandments, then turned it around to reveal an 11th Commandment, “Thou Shalt Do The Dance.” For at least some Americans that may have been the last straw that cemented the film’s descent from screwball religious comedy to sacrilege.

But that’s assuming they made it inside the theater. It’s likely that others simply stayed away when ads appeared before the film’s release depicting “Noah” in a Marilyn Monroe pose, complete with a windblown “skirt” he was trying desperately to keep down.

Joseph is on to something here. Even for Christians who didn’t see the movie, the ads were patronizing enough to keep us all away.

I recommend reading the entire review:

“With Evan Almighty, Hollywood Strikes Out Again in Effort to Appeal to Faith-Based Audience” by Mark Joseph (FoxNews.com)

(HT: Justin Taylor)

22 Responses to Why “Evan Almighty” Flopped

  1. GUNNY HARTMAN July 1, 2007 at 4:56 pm #

    Ishtar?! Ouch!

    I was wondering about some of the same stuff. Have you seen it yet?

    Your thoughts?

  2. Michael J. Svigel July 1, 2007 at 5:40 pm #

    Thanks, Denny. This is fabulous. I was quite ticked when my Christianity Today had a front cover feature on Evan Almighty as well as a full-page back cover advertisement for it. It makes we wonder which came first. . .

  3. Jason July 2, 2007 at 8:32 am #

    I want to see it. I thought Bruce Almighty was pretty funny. Probably a much better family option than Live Free or Die Hard (I’ll probably see that one too), but I’m not going into a movie theater expecting to get good theology. I’m just going for the laughs, and I expect Evan to be quite funny.

  4. bj July 2, 2007 at 9:39 am #

    As Tim Challies (www.challies.com) pointed out, that fact is that we would laugh at some of the jokes is the problem. We would guffaw and chuckle at jibes and jabs at God’s sovereignty and holiness.

  5. Bryan L July 2, 2007 at 9:52 am #

    bj,
    I didn’t see Challies say any of that in his blog post about it. Can you point me to where that is?

    Maybe in the end it’s just a lot of highly anticipated movies (family movies or ones that appeal to the kids) have comes out and it gets kind of expensive taking the whole family to all of them. I mean Pirates 3, Spider Man 3, Fantastic Four 2, Transformers, that Rat movie… and then other movies that people really want to see like Live Free or Die Hard, Knocked Up. It gets expensive after a while and you have to kind of choose which ones you really want to see. I’ve heard good thing about Evan Almighty and want to see it, it’s just not high on my list.

    It’s been a good spring/summer for movies and I think Evan has just suffered for that, even among Christians as many want to see those other movies too.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  6. bj July 2, 2007 at 9:58 am #

    Here’s the quotation – “At Christian Answers I read an interesting interview with the film’s director, Tom Shadyac, who is a professing Roman Catholic and who has directed, among other films, Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor and Liar, Liar. The interview took place after the release of Bruce Almighty and one thing the interviewer said really struck me: “Well, I have to be honest, I laughed so hard at this movie, and I was so touched by it emotionally that while I was watching it, I didn’t think about the curse words and things like that.” And this is exactly why I will not go and watch Evan Almighty. If I go, I know I will laugh. I will laugh at things that are meant to be funny but which are actually dead serious. Only later will I realize what I’ve done. The genre of film will reduce my defenses and allow me to laugh at things that may be blasphemous or vulgar or otherwise unbiblical. So, like Bruce Almighty, I’ll just stay away even though part of me really would love to see this one.”

    http://www.challies.com/archives/002631.php

    It’s from a June 15 post.

  7. Bryan L July 2, 2007 at 10:30 am #

    Oh so it’s not in Challies actual post on the 30th that was about why the movie flopped.

    You said, “We would guffaw and chuckle at jibes and jabs at God’s sovereignty and holiness.” So you don’t actually know that there are those actual jokes in the movie?

    You are just guessing there will be? Do you see any movies? Do you watch comedies or do you stay away from that whole genre to avoid laughing at things you’ll feel bad for laughing at later?

    I’ve heard there are no curse words in the movie and it’s really clean, more so than Bruce Almighty, the kind you can take the whole family to and not worry about what will be said.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  8. bj July 2, 2007 at 12:52 pm #

    Bryan, if you want to see the movie, please do so.
    My response is simply that I cannot attend and support it. That’s not a judgment on you or anybody else. I have had glimpses into the sinfulness of my own heart, and I know, from tough experience, that I would be foolish to allow myself to watch the movie. I simply cannot watch a movie that, in all the reviews and summaries I’ve read about it, treats the things of God lightly.
    If by watching this movie, you then have opportunity to open conversation with a non-believer, that is good.
    Pax.

  9. Bryan L July 2, 2007 at 2:27 pm #

    In watching the movie I’m just hoping to laugh. If it help me witness then cool, if not no big deal.

    If you feel watching a comedy that deals with spiritual matters in a light hearted or comedic way is sinful then I guess that’s your conviction and you got to live by your convictions. I can’t fault anyone for that (unless they judge others which you don’t appear to be doing).

    I personally don’t see anything wrong in the spiritual being presented in lighthearted or comedic way, especially since there’s plenty of funny stuff in the Bible that I think seems to be intentionally presented as funny (Adam and Eve trying to hide from God, Man building a tower to the heavens and God has to come down to see what they’re doing, Haman hung on the gallow he built, a King being assassinated and his subjects thinking he’s still on the toilet, Elijah suggesting that Baal has gone to the bathroom as why he hasn’t arisen to the challenge against YHWH, Jonah being swallowed by a whale, the 7 sons of Sceva…)

    Just because something might be a comedy and it makes you laugh that doesn’t mean there aren’t serious moments that speak to you. In fact many comedies are like this. The show Scrubs is a great example of how a show can be hilarious but still make deep points and speak to you in a profound way. I thought Bruce Almighty had some great points that made you think and when it was time to present them they did it in a serious way. I figure Evan Almighty will probably do the same.

    Anyway, have a good one.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  10. GUNNY HARTMAN July 2, 2007 at 4:51 pm #

    Could we not establish that there is a line of mockery/blasphemy at which point the Christian ought to opt out?

    That’s not the same thing as trying to establish what that line is or if that line is the same for everyone.

    I’m also not speaking so much about depiction of biblical characters, themes, or events, but more so depictions of God.

    I’m a Monty Python, for example, but I never like when they caricature God with a cartoon.

    Does it matter what the agenda is of the movie/director/screen writer? Does it make a difference if the motivation is “good, clean fun” versus mockery of Christ and/or His beloved church?

  11. Bryan L July 2, 2007 at 5:20 pm #

    Gunny,
    Why don’t you flesh out what your talking about with some examples or ideas. What have you seen that you consider a mockery of Christ? What do you see as a mockery of his church? Is it possible that a mockery of his church is still true and sometimes we need to see how the world sees the church and even laugh at some of the crazy thing we do? I’m thinking of a movie like Saved which when I watched it I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable, like they were reading the churches mail. But they were right in many of their depictions of the church.
    So again I’d be interested at what exactly you have in mind in terms of actual examples. Lets not think of where the line is in the abstract but talk about real movies and whether they are going beyond the line, and why you (or we) think so. I’ve not seen Monty Python so I don’t know what you’re talking about with the cartoon God. Maybe yo can tell me and let me know what makes you uncomfortable about it.
    With a movie like Evan Almighty, I wouldn’t be able to say whether it crosses the line since I haven’t seen it yet and I don’t like to read reviews (much less plot killers) of a movie before I see it.

    Blessing,
    Bryan L

  12. Rose July 3, 2007 at 12:26 pm #

    Well, since I saw the movie, I’ll chime in here….entering at my own risk 🙂

    I never saw Bruce Almighty because the previews showed some things I found a bit offensive so I’m not going to compare the two. I went into this movie with a low expectation and some concern, but I really enjoyed the movie.

    Did they present the Gospel as I would have liked as a Believer? No. Did they present a modern-day telling of the story of Noah without defaming Scripture? Yes.

    A local church in Louisville canceled services and rented a theater last Sunday for their congregation to watch the movie together. I’m not all for that. But, I think seeing it gives me opportunities to talk about it with other believers and non-believers alike.

    I don’t expect solid theological movies coming out of secular Hollywood studios to be honest.

  13. Michael July 4, 2007 at 10:00 am #

    This movie not only insults my faith, but my intelligence.

  14. Don F July 5, 2007 at 6:58 pm #

    I’m glad I passed on this movie and save the $8 bucks, not too mention another $3 on a Dr Pepper. The whole feel of the movie from the ads and previews just left me with an uneasy feeling and that it was probably going to be a flop.

  15. JGray July 9, 2007 at 9:00 am #

    Rose,

    Please tell me how making a parody of the story of Noah is not defaming Scripture?

    They took a story about God’s hatred of sin and made it about God’s dislike over not enough random acts of kindness?!?!

    They took a story about God’s wrath in the destruction of the earth, and made it a light-hearted comedy.

    Now, I’m not one who is easily offended or anything, but I feel it is offensive to downplay God’s attitude toward sin. Maybe it is because this world doesn’t care about sin that they find it funny…but please tell me why Christians should find it funny. Please tell me why the very thing that Christ died for can be so easily mocked or downplayed.

    Sorry, I don’t buy the whole “they didn’t defame Scripture” line…it makes a joke of God, sin, judgment, and even appeasement of God’s wrath. Not to mention having Morgan Freeman play “God”.

    The fact that some churches would cancel services to go see it is sad. No way around that.

  16. Rose July 9, 2007 at 2:22 pm #

    JGray,

    I don’t go to the theater expecting Hollywood to present the Gospel appropriately…given that unbelievers are producing the movie. So, when I see a movie released that deals with a Biblical account, I’m curious to see how they will handle it. I went in with low expectations.

    The fact that the bill that was being thwarted in the plot of the movie was for the “CinPlan” (pronounced like “sin”) and that the emminent flood destroyed Washington DC, I thought it was a subtle message of destroying sin. (Pardon the spoiler)

    Do I read too much in it? Possibly. Would I have preferred they openly discussed the destructiveness of sin and Christ’s sacrifice for us? Most definitely. But, at least I’ve had an open door to talk about that with folks who have seen the movie that don’t know about the saving grace I am unworthy to receive.

  17. Bryan L July 9, 2007 at 2:58 pm #

    JGray,
    You said, “Not to mention having Morgan Freeman play “God”.”

    What’s that supposed to mean? Who do you want to play him? Jesus?

    Blessings
    Bryan L

  18. JGray July 9, 2007 at 3:01 pm #

    Would you have no other avenues of sharing grace and the gospel with others if it were not for movies?

    Seems to me that we all have MANY opportunities to share the grace of God….I think movies like this confuse the issue rather than provide open doors.

    I’ve always found open doors with people I have taken the time to get to know.

    BTW, do you really believe that the Word of God is sufficient…or do you think we need help from movies that tear down the Word in order to see people saved?

  19. JGray July 9, 2007 at 3:16 pm #

    Bryan L,

    I mean that having anyone “play God” is an offensive thing.
    That should have been clear from the context of me listing how all the key elements of the Gospel (and of the story of the flood) are downplayed, if not mocked.

    Hope that clears it up for you.

    JG

  20. Rose July 9, 2007 at 3:25 pm #

    JGray,
    I believe there are many avenues of sharing grace and the gospel aside from movies. I would also say that we should use any opportunity as an avenue…including a movie like this.

    And, yes, most definitely I believe the Word of God is sufficient.

  21. JGray July 9, 2007 at 3:36 pm #

    Rose,

    I also believe that we should use any opportunity as an avenue…even whatever discussion may come from this movie.

    But there is a difference between using what is there and commending what is there.

    I think that is the difference between our views.

    I think the support of this movie by Christians blurs the message we’re trying to communicate to the non-believer rather than help clarify it.
    It confuses who God is, what sin is, the penalty of sin, God’s hatred of sin, God’s judgment, and how God has provided salvation from judgment among other things.

    This movie mocks those things…and as Christians we should not endorse something that belittles those things or makes God anything less than He is.

    He has given us a message to share…and we don’t need a poor comedy that distracts from the our message to communicate that message.

  22. Rose July 9, 2007 at 4:46 pm #

    JGray,
    I appreciate your comments, and realize that we both desire the true Word of God to be spoken.

    That being said, I feel rather convicted that I’ve spent more time debating this issue today than I have sharing the gospel today, so in light of that, I’ll rest this case. 🙂

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