Joel Siegel Movie Reviews

ByJoel Siegel

May 23, 2003 -- Now in theaters: Bruce Almighty, The In-Laws and Down With Love.

Bruce AlmightyThere is something autobiographical about Bruce Almighty. In real life, Jim Carrey has tried to be a serious actor. He was very good in The Majestic and Man on the Moon, but the films were bombs.

In Bruce Almighty, Carrey is reunited with Tom Shadyac, the director who did Ace Ventura and Liar, Liar. He plays a wacky, offbeat news reporter in Buffalo who longs to be an anchorman and be taken seriously. But everything goes wrong.

In real life, Carrey probably blames his agent. In Bruce Almighty, he blames God.

God, in the person of Morgan Freeman, goes to Bruce and gives him heavenly powers. Carrey parts a bowl of tomato soup as if it were the Red Sea. He just as easily augments girlfriend Jennifer Aniston's chest.

Carrey slips into his old obnoxious, adolescent persona, using divine powers to be silly: lifting skirts, turning his heap into a million-dollar Italian sports car.

He gets in trouble when he sets up a "You Have Prayers" Web site and says yes to everybody, resulting in 4 million people winning the lottery.

The film gets in trouble when it tries for philosophy so, wisely, it rarely tries. Freeman, as God, makes the religion work with his patience and human decency.

It's no divine comedy, there's no real revelation, but the funny bits are up there with Jim Carrey's best. It's going to be a big, summer hit. Grade: B

The In-LawsIn the original version of The In-Laws, Peter Falk and Alan Arkin raised the bar for comedy so high that, watching it, you laughed so hard you felt as if you were levitating (you still will, so take home the DVD).

Now, the gags are different and the names are changed. The remake is not as funny as the 1979 original, but there are some big, big laughs.

It's wonderful watching Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks having so much fun. It's also great to see a summer movie that doesn't rely on special effects.

Brooks plays a nervous podiatrist who's too skittish to take planes. Even tall buildings are a problem. His daughter is marrying the son of Douglas, a CIA agent who mixes family affairs with cloak-and-dagger games.

This film is so low-tech that when Brooks and Douglas are forced to land a plane, the special effects are doled out the old-fashioned way — someone shakes the camera.

No big effects, no stunt doubles. That really is Albert Brooks we see emerging from a hot tub in a candy apple red thong. Maybe they should have had a stunt double. But it's funny. Grade: B. Down With LoveThere's an old Broadway saying: Nobody ever walked out of a musical humming the costumes. Down With Love proves that's true in Hollywood, too.

There was huge amount of press for Down With Love, all about the clothes. One of the studio's bragging points that I read it in USA Today: Renée Zellweger doesn't wear the same article of clothing twice in the whole film. I don't know about the folks at USA Today, but to me that's not a reason to see a movie. And with this movie, there isn't any other.

Far From Heaven, one of last year's best movies, used 1960s sets and fashions to talk about honesty and relationships and explore the human condition. Down With Love, one of this year's worst movies, uses 1960s sets and fashions to talk about sets and fashions.

This purports to be a modern version of the Doris Day-Rock Hudson Pillow Talk comedies but ends up being a big snore. One of the best jokes in the film is a bad split-screen — stolen directly from Austin Powers. Shame on them.

This is a movie about hats — white, pink and red hats — not to mention dresses, lingerie and linings. But there's more than just clothes.

There's the sets — posh restaurants, impossibly large offices, Ewan McGregor's swank bachelor pad and Zellweger's bachelorette padette, complete with a pink telephone.

Relax, Renée, the call's from me, with my review. Grade: C-.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events