Steve Carell rides the wave of 40-Year-Old Virgin stardom (and a biblical flood) in this bizarre, effects-heavy comedy about a modern-day Noah's ark. The film is nominally a sequel to Bruce Almighty, although it bears little relation to the 2003 Jim Carrey hit--except for the divine intervention of Morgan Freeman, who returns in his role as God. Even Carell's character is much altered from his supporting part in the first film; here, Evan Baxter says goodbye to the news-anchoring business in favor of his job as a naive freshman congressman. When God orders him to build an ark and prepare for an impending inundation, Evan sheepishly takes on the task (it's hard to turn down the job when your hair and beard grow to Old Testament lengths and God wants you to walk around in sackcloth).
Carell gets to do silly dances and mix it up with a variety of animals (real and computer-generated), all of which reminds us of the film's family-friendly tone and the PG rating. The kid stuff works just fine, although the religio-environmental message-mongering makes this a most curious kind of Hollywood blockbuster. When the flood comes, the film shifts into a mammoth-sized CGI extravaganza, recalling the era of overstuffed techno-comedies such as 1941 and Howard the Duck (and not to be nit-picky, but the tsunami-like disaster that overtakes Washington, D.C., looks as though it would snuff out the lives of quite a few citizens). Capable comic support comes from John Michael Higgins, Wanda Sykes, and Jonah Hill, with John Goodman and Lauren Graham filling out stock roles of fatcat politico and loyal wife, respectively. Carell is even better at being sincere than being funny, a talent that comes in handy here and bodes well for his future versatility. --Robert Horton