Missing the 'Jesus freak' behind Evan Almighty

Tom Shadyac After Christianity Today published a lengthy Q&A with Evan Almighty director Tom Shadyac, there was no excuse for those writing about the movie studio's attempt to appeal to religious audiences to exclude the fact that Shadyac is in fact a self-described "Jesus freak." Nevertheless, one day later, the Los Angeles Times managed to publish 1,200 words on the film and ignored Shadyac's pretty straightforward Christian testimony.

Note this quote from Shadyac and the following discussion from the Times about the financial impact of the movie and we'll compare that with his more extensive conversation with CT:

"For some reason, Hollywood doesn't make this kind of movie," says Tom Shadyac, the director of both "Evan Almighty" and its racier predecessor, 2003's "Bruce Almighty," whose religious message was less palpable. "I don't know if it's out of fear. I really don't. Maybe we're not living as closely to these themes."

Christian moviegoers have been an increasingly hot target since Gibson's "Passion" grossed more than $370 million in 2004. In assembling "Evan Almighty," Universal and Shadyac endeavored to create a crowd-pleasing, but nondogmatic, parable. The goal was to appeal not only to fans of star Steve Carell -- last seen searching for a willing woman in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" -- but also liberal environmentalists and more socially conservative audiences who rarely venture into the multiplex.

Toward that end, "Evan Almighty" combines Carell's distinct physical and verbal comedy with straightforward scenes about faith. Just a few minutes into the movie, Carell's character gets on his knees and prays to God. Unlike the higher-power conversations in the George Burns' "Oh, God!" comedies from 30 years ago, it's not done purely for laughs.

And here is some of the follow-up in CT, which I recommend you read in its entirety if you are considering going to see this film:

CT: But between Bruce's success and The Passion's success, Hollywood suddenly realized that Christians buy a lot of tickets at the box office.

Shadyac: I agree, but I think that's a bass-ackwards embracing by show business. You don't get audiences by going, "Oh gee, there's a Christian audience, let's make Christian movies." Because then you get bad movies.

But I do agree completely that Hollywood didn't know how powerful the Christian audience was. When they showed up for The Passion, it spun heads, because Hollywood is colorblind except for one color, and it's green. They saw green. They've never seen anything like it -- Christian organizations and churches buying out entire screenings. They saw numbers they couldn't believe for a movie that probably should have opened to a much softer number. It just really woke people up.

CT: Hearing you say these things, it's kind of ironic, then, that Evan Almighty is being aggressively marketed to Christians and churches, including the Ark Almighty campaign on the side. Your movie has now become a part of that Christian marketing machine. Are you OK with that?

Shadyac: I'm okay with that. I mean, we're all here to spread good news. I believe strongly in this creative force we call God, and I love to spread the word. As long as that's done honestly, I'm good with it. When we started talking about making this movie, I had kept hearing that the Christian community wanted more "biblical, wholesome, entertainment. And we thought we had something that they would embrace.

An aspect I think many have missed, including me, is that the first movie wasn't exactly rejected by the religious audiences. Yes, it had a PG-13 rating and included a few scenes that many would find objectionable, but the overall message was positive and included what Shadyac describes as the "roots in truths that are found in Scripture."

So there you have it. Check out the rest of the CT transcript because it gets into the deep end of the "being in the world and not of the world" discussion that's pretty interesting for those who are interested in that.

Please respect our Commenting Policy