Study Sheet – Bruce Almighty

Bruce Almighty
2003 Universal Pictures
Directed by Tom Shadyac
Featuring Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman

Plot: Bruce Nolan, a good, but self-centered newsman, complains bitterly to God when he is overlooked for promotion to anchorman. God responds, allowing Bruce to exercise divine powers and respond to peoples’ prayers himself.

Consideration: One of the best ways to start discussing this film is to react to the plot itself. This plot device has been tried before, sometimes with marginal success as in Oh, God! (1977), in which George Burns as God responds to John Denver; and sometimes with celebrated success, as in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), in which God sends the angel Clarence to assist George Bailey in his distress, even allowing George a glimpse of a world in which he had never been born.

  1. In Bruce Almighty, can you accept the premise of Morgan Freeman as God responding to Jim Carrey’s prayer?
  2. Does the film ever cross the line of what is appropriate in a religious context and what is not? Why or why not?
  3. Does anything in the film – language, sexual situations – undercut the film’s attempt to make a larger theological point?

Analysis: Once past such preliminaries, once accepting the film on its own terms, what of the message that it offers regarding God’s responses to prayer or his balancing of free will and the greater good of individuals and humanity?

  1. Compare Bruce Nolan’s prayer after he is fired from his job to the prayer he offers when face-to-face with God in the clouds.  What has changed? Does the Bible teach the same? Consider James 4: 1-10.
                a. How does this apply to our prayers?
                b. Does Bruce’s adolescent attitude toward prayer characterize the prayers of many today in our self-absorbed culture? Explain.
  2. Bruce discovers that he cannot compel Grace (Jennifer Aniston) to love him.
                a. How does this reflect the Bible’s teaching about creation and the fall? Consider Matthew 23: 37-39, words Jesus spoke on the way to execution.
                b. Is God bound to allow us free will, as the film suggests? Do other Scriptures teach this?
  3. Bruce changes at the end into a selfless person?
                a. What has he learned, beyond how to pray? Consider Philippians 2: 3-11.
                b. Why does the humble man act more charitably?