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HD DVD Review: Evan Almighty

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Proof that money doesn’t buy everything, Evan Almighty stands alone as the world’s most expensive comedy. Cash bought plenty of special effects from ILM, and almost an entire ark built from scratch. What it apparently couldn’t buy is a better script; the one here is generic and clichéd, which even in a film with God himself as a character, doesn’t make it any more logical.

As this is not a direct sequel, the story has a chance to repeat itself from 2003’s Bruce Almighty. Steve Carell takes on the overzealous jerk role, selected by God to build an ark. All the expected scenes of Carell struggling to believe God is, well, God, are intact. Morgan Freeman stands alone as the only returning character, taking on the role of the big guy.

Family, friends, and co-workers believe Evan (Carell) is slowly descending into insanity even after tons (literally) of wood is dropped off at his house, apparently without him so much as writing a check or swiping a credit card. As the story goes, the thousands of animals that magically appear completely out of their natural habitat and obey Evan still aren’t enough to convince people that just maybe there’s some extra water due pretty soon.

Logical ridiculousness aside, the plot is thin and performances sub-par. John Goodman plays the over-the-top corrupt politician with no effort at all. The land development cost cutting plan he proposes is the stuff of B-movie legend. Wanda Sykes exists purely to spout off one-liners at expected intervals, and Jonah Hill is completely wasted for a few lines you could count on one hand.

A few smirks, a couple of poop jokes, and some light enjoyable slapstick comedy is the best you’ll get from Evan Almighty. None of the charm or wit of the original is here, and the “build the ark” concept seems like a complete waste of time. Why doesn’t God let Evan know that there’s a flood coming and to get everyone out of there instead of forcing him into manual labor? Even for a light family comedy, it’s simply too absurd to swallow.

Transferring the film to HD DVD has resulted in a monumental video presentation. Clarity and detail are at their peak, the VC-1 encoding leaves no compression artifacts, and grain is barely discernible. The sharpness brings detail forward whether it’s deep in the background or right in front of the viewer. Black levels are deep and perfect.

Animals are constantly flying through the sound field when on screen, and the separation is easily noticeable. Most of the film sits in the front speakers otherwise, occasionally drifting lightly into the surrounds. It’s the finale as the flood finally comes full circle that becomes a demo-worthy sequence for any home theater. Water and debris splash in all channels, bass captures the rushing of the liquid, and the ark creaks as it’s thrashed about. It’s a classic example of home audio.

Extras are comprised of numerous small featurettes, most of which should have been combined into one documentary. Outtakes sit on the top of the menu, and run for close to three minutes. Deleted scenes last for about 15 minutes without any commentary as to the reason for their deletion.

Ark-iteks begins the featurettes, taking a behind-the-scenes look at the ark and how it was built (7:00). Becoming Noah discusses the beard make-up (6:30), Carell Unscripted is some footage of the actor goofing around off-camera (3:13), while Animals on Set by Two looks at the trials of dealing with the various creatures on set (13:00).

A Flood of Visual Effects discusses the finale and how it came together (7:00). Almighty Forest is a list of people/companies who planted a tree in conjunction with a promotion for the film. Animal Wrangler is a fun piece that looks at the trained creatures in the film, and even offers a list of other movies they’ve been in.

A few PSAs include A Mighty Green Set, which delves into how the crew were careful with themselves as to not damage the area (5:30); It’s Easy Being Green lets you in on tips about conservation (5:00), and Acts of Random Kindness are personal stories from the cast and crew as to how they’ve helped people at some point in their lives (1:30).

Universal’s typical U-Control feature uses a wealth of content to provide the viewer with more content via picture-in-picture. Stills, pop-up facts, behind-the-scenes clips, and more are accessible. As usual, these can only be accessed in the specific chapters of the movie as it’s playing.

Evan Almighty also uses the online downloadable features of HD-DVD. Sadly, like so many other discs to utilize this feature, the majority of available options are a waste. One brief downloadable clip takes viewers on the tour of the set, while the others are promotional trailers and an exclusive store. If the format makers want to tout its ability to increase the shelf life of the disc past its initial purchase, they’ll need to do far more to impress movie fans.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.