Mark Joseph at FoxNews.com speculated a few weeks ago that the film’s supposed target audience smelled something phony:
In its aftermath, once again the chatter from Hollywood is how, despite another earnest and sincere attempt to make a movie for “those people,” the elusive faith-based audience that came out to see the Passion of The Christ has once again failed to turn out en masse for a movie thought to be tailor-made for them. The problem with such an analysis is that it’s not unlike making a movie featuring blackface and wondering why the African-American audience isn’t interested.
There is something to this, I think. I also wonder if non-Christians were put off by all the reports regarding how the studio went out of its way to curry favour with the Christian market — just as some Christians may have been put off by the filmmakers’ assurances that this would be a movie for “everybody”. To one demographic, the film sounded preachy; to the other, it didn’t sound preachy enough. Plus, of course, the movie wasn’t all that funny.
At any rate, the film has been doing so badly in North America that its box-office prospects elsewhere have also taken a hit; two weeks ago, its Japanese distribution was cancelled outright.
Meanwhile, it turns out that director Tom Shadyac is also one of several producers on I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, the crass but preachy Adam Sandler comedy about two straight men who pose as a married gay couple for financial reasons. Chuck & Larry reportedly cost less than half of what it cost to make Evan Almighty, but it is currently on track to earn a fair bit more.
Shadyac presumably had little to do with the creative decisions on Chuck & Larry, but given that he made a big, big deal about his religious beliefs while promoting Evan, it is interesting to see that the only openly religious figures in Chuck & Larry are the bigoted homophobes who stage protests outside courthouses and gay clubs. You might think someone who is so open about his own spirituality would be a little more careful about lending his name to material that could oh-so-easily lend itself to a thoroughly negative portrayal of religious faith, but apparently not.
Add this to the list of things I wish my fellow journalists and I had known when we met Shadyac on the Evan Almighty junket.
AUG 12 UPDATE: Just for the record, Chuck & Larry passed Evan Almighty at the domestic box office three days ago.