*Disclaimer: Potential Spoiler Alerts*
Ever wonder what it might be like if you had control over your own life? And I’m not talking about normal control, I’m talking god-like, complete and utter control. You could change your boss’ mind to give you that promotion. You could suddenly have the car that you want without paying for it. You don’t have to be sick ever. This complete and utter power is explored by two different movies in two different ways- who did it better?
Firstly, an introduction to our comedies for the next few minutes:
Bruce Almighty (2003)
When Bruce Nolan, a television reporter doomed to bad luck and meaningless stories, complains to God that his life sucks, God decides to let him do something about it. He gives Bruce all of His powers and takes a vacation, since clearly Bruce “can clear everything up in five minutes if he wanted to”. Bruce is challenged to take care of the world with these new powers while trying to take control of his own life at work and with his loving girlfriend, Grace, who just wants Bruce to be satisfied with his own life. Comedy, Drama, Fantasy. Rated PG-13 for language, sexual content and crude humor.
Michael Newman, a workaholic architect, wishes he could spend more time with his family as well as work hard enough to impress his boss to give him a promotion, wanting to give his family the very best. He meets Morty the sales clerk who gives him a universal remote to make his home life less complicated. As it turns out, this universal remote actually controls Michael’s universe, allowing him to mute, skip and subtitle his life. What he doesn’t realize is that the remote sets itself to his preferences, and when he begins to skip past more of his life, he realizes his choices are not what he wanted at all. Comedy, Drama, Fantasy. Rated PG-13 for language, crude and sex-related humor, and some drug references.
With the basics out of the way, let us begin the Film Fight!
Both movies revolve around the main character gaining their power from a guiding figure- in Bruce Almighty, Bruce (Jim Carrey) gets his powers literally from God (Morgan Freeman), allowing him to do basically anything. God only has two rules- don’t tell anyone that you’re God (believe me you don’t want that kind of attention), and no messing with free will. He pops in from time to time to give Bruce advice on dealing with his powers- don’t let your prayers pile up, not everyone needs exactly what they want, ect.- and even shares (and gives) a laugh or two. It’s hard to argue with Morgan Freeman anyway, his voice is just that amazing and I would definitely follow his religion after watching him lead this movie. He also gives Bruce a kind and tender look into a life as God- sure you can part your soup and create a romantic evening, but people look to you for guidance, and even God has trouble making his girlfriend happy (though Bruce is a little more self-sighted than God). It’s about learning when to give, and when to hold back, because sometimes “if you want pictures like these, you’ll need to use some dark colors.”
Michael (Adam Sandler) is guided by a very different sort of being, perhaps because the powers he gets are slightly different. Morty (Christopher Walken) pops in a little more often than God to give Michael tips on how to use the remote, answer questions and then to fill him in when he has suddenly fast-forwarded through ten years of his life. Morty is also not as soft as God in terms of doling out his lessons to the slightly (okay maybe mostly) selfish protagonist who thinks he knows exactly what he needs or wants. He does spend a lot of time walking Michael through his lessons though, since the hands on portion of the lesson is being fast-forwarded through takes up a surprising portion of the movie. Even Morty’s true identity as an angel is a little harder than God, but we’ll get into that in a few more paragraphs.
Winner: Bruce Almighty
Of course when our protagonists get their new powers, they spend the first five to ten minutes showing them off and using them for the weirdest and most unhelpful things they can imagine. Actually, most of Bruce’s power uses are pretty unhelpful- he starts by parting the red soup, blowing up a woman’s skirt, giving himself a cool car and paying back a thug by having a monkey come out of his butt. He also manages to get his job at the news station back, kick his rival out of the anchor position, and have a night of pretty crazy sex with his girlfriend without having to talk about anything important. When the prayers start coming in, Bruce just gives everyone exactly what they want without even listening/reading them, causing chaos in his downtown Buffalo NY. As the movie goes on, Bruce realizes that doing the most good for the world is not having ultimate power- it’s normal people doing simple, helpful things for each other, like giving a poor man a few dollars or helping a stranger with a stalled car pull out of the road. Basically his powers are comic relief in this movie.
But, in all honesty, so are the powers of the Universal Remote, and some of those are even more useless than Bruce’s God powers. Michael does the usual funny gags- muting his wife in an argument, fast-forwarding through a boring family dinner, recalling a’previous scene’ to remember his and his wife’s song- but then he starts messing with some of the remote’s weirder and less important, more just funny options, like changing his skin color to green or purple, or listening to his boss give a lecture in Spanish. Of course Michael’s power abuse comes back to bite him in the butt when the remote starts fast-forwarding any time he’s sick, arguing with his wife or waiting for a promotion, and that’s when he starts to realize that he doesn’t want to abuse the ability to get where he wants faster. He wants to spend that time with the people he loves and not lose his connection with them.
Winner: Tie- both abuses of power are ridiculous and sometimes stupid, but the lesson is still there and there are funny moments for both.
Real Heavy, Real Dark, Real Quick
Both of these movies are comedies of course, but they are founded on very serious and at times very dark ideas. In order for these characters to learn their lessons, they need to understand the impact of their decisions, and in some cases, their decisions make extremely large changes in their world. Bruce’s girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston) dumps him and Bruce spends a lot of his time and powers to try and win her back. Then, when Grace prays, Bruce is given a front row seat to the pain that he has caused her and is continuing to cause her every time he tries to get her back. She begs for God to help her let him go. That is the moment that Bruce decides he doesn’t want to be God anymore and asks Him to take the reins again, getting hit by a truck in the process. Though Grace’s sobbed prayer is heartbreaking (helped by the beautiful score in the moment), the rest of the lesson is sort of mitigated by God’s decision to send Bruce back and Grace forgiving him while he’s in the hospital. Sure we love the happy ending, but it goes from sad to happy really quick without the lesson really getting a chance to stick.
Click, if it’s even possible, gets even darker by revealing that Morty, Michael’s helping hand throughout the movie, is actually the Angel of Death, and that he is there to take everyone from this life into the next. He reveals this by telling Michael he took his father during one of the fast-forwarded periods, and then when Michael has a heart attack far into his future, Morty is there to take him away from his family. Michael has missed so many years in his family’s life- he misses his children growing up, his divorce with his wife, his father’s death, almost his son’s wedding- and this draws out how sad the movie is, but that’s not enough. The audience is given one last kick in the gut when Michael’s son has to cancel his honeymoon to take care of business, and Michael literally rips himself out of the machines saving his life to chase him down in the rain, falling down and barely managing to choke out “family first”. He also apologizes to his now grown-up daughter for failing to live up to a promise he made when she was 5, that he would live to 200. Sure, the movie ends happily with the whole thing being a vision from Morty that convinces Michael to change his ways, but the sad and painful moments are dragged out enough that this movie is much darker than you would expect an Adam Sandler comedy to be.
These movies work with two (well actually 3, if you found Steve Carrell in Bruce Almighty) very different and very respected comedians in the world of film. They do, however, have different styles, so the way they present the idea of gaining absolute power for their characters is portrayed differently. Jim Carrey focuses on faces, physical reactions (the wake-up in the morning sequence is perhaps the most realistic thing in this movie and I love it!) and the jokes between him and Freeman are hilarious. The movie also manages to take religion, which is not the easiest topic to cover anyway, and make it something that can be enjoyed and maybe discussed later, but in the moment, it’s fun to watch. The jokes are tasteful for the most part (ignoring the butt monkey, that was really unnecessary and just weird) and it will still be funny the fourth or fifth time you watch it.
Click, on the other hand, is a Sandler movie in terms of humor- it’s all little kiddie and teenage boy style. It’s boobs in slowmo and dogs humping stuffed animals and Sandler arguing like he is a little kid with a little kid. Sure some of it is funny initially, but the laughs sort of grow stale after a little while, and multiple viewings may not make you feel as amused as the first did. This movie is great because of its lesson and the passion of its characters, not because of how funny it is. The jokes are less clever and you know they are definitely more gauged for laughs than for thinking- you get the thinking from all the crying you’re going to do later when Sandler is choking on his own air.
Winner: Bruce Almighty
I love both of these movies because they can make me feel- they make me feel sad, they make me laugh, I am enjoying myself every time I pop one in the DVD player. Sure I have to remind myself to have tissues in the vicinity with them, but I know that Carrey and Sandler can hit my funny bone when I need them to. It depends on what kind of funny you like and how much of it, but either movie will make you happy with your choice at the end of it all.