Never one to shy from his own personal God complex, comedic tyrant Jim Carrey returns to his energetic but shallow funnyman mode in Bruce Almighty, a conservative one-joke comedy seemingly engineered to make up for recent dramatic efforts (Man on the Moon, The Majestic) that alienated the hardcore Ace Ventura crowd. Carrey’s titular Bruce is a selfish, underachieving Buffalo TV news reporter whose typical fluff exposés on cook-offs and boat cruises have left him bitter and resentful of the world. He screams at God over and over until He appears in the form of Morgan Freeman, who grants the prodigal son the freedom to take over his almighty reigns for a while and do anything he wishes. Bruce naturally has a blast with his limitless powers, whether it be one-upping his on-air rival or surreptitiously enlarging his girlfriend’s breasts (in a thankless role, Jennifer Aniston is merely a decorative distraction). It all begins to wear thin as the film reveals itself as a barely-disguised parable for Carrey’s movie star demands, which essentially amount to running the entire show. Carrey throws directing and writing jobs at his old cohorts Tom Shadyac and Steve Oedekerk, respectively, and gives himself a producing credit; indeed, this could just as easily been called Jim Almighty. It’s mostly inoffensive, and there are a few decent chuckles scattered throughout, but it’s obvious that without Carrey, whose contortions of speech, face, and other such means of expression amount to about two-thirds of the “jokes,” this would not be a comedy, let alone much of a movie. In fact, the picture’s maudlin roots shine through in the last act as Bruce learns his lesson about giving and kindness; those who cried foul at the misguided but not altogether unworthy The Majestic should have their hands full with Bruce Almighty‘s sentimental overload, which rivals the inexplicable sap that Adam Sandler has rammed down our throats on several occasions. In several ways the movie is an apathetic revision of The Truman Show, with Carrey starring as both Truman and Christof. It’s the kind of movie where there’s always a buoyant score or pop song in the background, the sun is always shining, and you’ll never have to worry about cleaning up the mess when the dog pees in the living room. Maybe this is what his fans expect, but few will believe that Carrey himself favors this warmed-over pap over a more challenging project. But if all Bruce Almighty amounts to is biding time (or, more likely, paying the bills) until his next serious role, it’s an otherwise bitter pill that goes down without much of an aftertaste.