Tom Shadyac is one of the most interesting and least appreciated Christian filmmakers in Hollywood. And I can’t figure out why basically no one in the Christian community knows this. Liar Liar was an great moral portrait of a man bereft of the ability to break the ninth commandment, not to mention side-splitingly funny with Jim Carrey giving a tour de force performance of the stricken lawyer. Shadyac and Carrey’s most recent joint venture, Bruce Almighty, was one of the most attractive and insightful portrayals of God in the last decade of film.
So, its not without some excitement that I’m awaiting the release of Shadyac’s latest picture, Evan Almighty. (As you might guess, it is sequel to Bruce, which grossed nealy a half-billion dollars worldwide.) Replacing Carrey as the comedic lead is Steve Carell, who’s lately been staking claim as one of the best funnymen in the business today. (Carell’s turn as Michael Scott in the US version of The Office has been nothing short of hysterical.)
The trailer for the movie is legitimately funny by itself, and exhibits enough evidence of a plot to hint that there may be some substance to the flick. Throw in a truly cross-generational appeal and an apparent reverence for the source material, and Evan Almighty has the potential to get Christians out to the box office in numbers not seen since Narnia and the Passion.
My only note of worry comes from a short drive I took this weekend, in which nearly every billboard I saw had been plastered with a promo for the film. My movie marketing rule of thumb is that there is a direct relation between the volume of ads you see for a film and the chance that it’s going to be rubbish. Studios know word of mouth and reviews will kill a bad film’s legs–i.e. the movie theater lifespan–so they’re desperate to get big numbers through the door opening weekend. Basically, if you’re seeing the film advertised everywhere, especially if the release date still over three weeks out, the movie is toast.
The only exception to this rule is for movies that the studio believe will be massive (e.g. summertime tentpole releases). In this case, around two to three weeks before the film, you’ll be seeing loads of advertising (and if the kiddie market is targeted, add about 2 to 6 months to the marketing start date).
Evan Almighty comes out in three weeks, which puts it right on the line: it could be terrible and the studio is in full emergency marketing mode or it could be about to make another half-billion dollars for the “Almighty” series. At this point, I’m putting my money on Evan Almighty being one of the event films of the summer. We’ll see in three weeks if I’m right.