In Tom Shadyac’s new comedy, heaven is a sun-drenched loft in Buffalo, New York, and God is a black man in a white suit. Fluorescent halos buzz at each end of the building. God (the ever-dignified Morgan Freeman) is busy keeping tabs on Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey), whose sins have filled a celestial file cabinet. At times, Bruce believes that God isn’t doing so well with the earth. Never mind the starving children in Africa. In Bruce’s little universe, nice guys finish last. Phoneys get all the breaks, and selfishness will get you everywhere. "God is a mean kid sitting on an ant-hill with a magnifying glass, and I’m the ant," Bruce complains. "He could fix my life in five minutes if He wanted to…"

Bruce wants nothing more than to become a TV news anchor, but he’s always reporting the fluff pieces—sappy human interest stories that revolve around cookies of record-breaking size, or the anniversary cruise of a Niagra Falls tour boat. When his rival, a suit with a plastic smile, scores the coveted anchor position, Bruce throws a Richter-scale tantrum. He blames God for his troubles. "The only one around here not doing his job is you!" he yells. "Answer me!" God complies, via a telephone call.

In his personal meeting with the "Alpha and Omega", Bruce is offered a free, one-week subscription to divine abilities. Two rules: Bruce can’t tell a soul about his deal, and he cannot affect free will. At first, he gets a kick out of performing miracles. He parts a bowl of tomato soup like the Red Sea. He increases the bust-size of his girlfriend, who is aptly named Grace (Jennifer Aniston), and trains his dog to use the toilet. At work, he manages to snag his old job back and elevate his status. But when Grace gets fed up with his egocentric behavior, Bruce is powerless to change her mind.

Bruce Almighty wants to be a modern, pop-culture edition of It’s a Wonderful Life, a classic film that it references on more than one occasion. The film also pokes fun at its rubbery-faced star, making reference to Carrey’s former roles and manic catchphrases. The very notion of Carrey as God is comical in itself, and the ways in which he abuses his divine abilities provide plenty of material for laughs. His short-sighted acts can have dire consequences – such as when he lassos the moon for Grace and spawns tidal waves in Japan.

Predestination is a heavy subject for a film that makes frequent use of slapstick and gross-out gags. The director, Tom Shadyac, has gone the philosophical route before in Carrey comedies like Liar, Liar. Instead of narrowing the focus to a strictly Christian viewpoint, the sweet-natured script (written by Steve Oedekerk, Steve Koren and Mark O’Keefe) views God as embraceable by anyone who believes in a creator (at one point, the Big Guy reveals that He shared a similar contract with Gandhi). As God, Bruce has more responsibilities than he can handle. He is rattled by the voices of unanswered prayers, which pop up, email-fashion, on his computer. "They’re all out of control…I don’t know what to do," he says. Instead of reading a million requests, he simply answers "yes" to all and finds out why it’s unwise to grant every wish.

"How do you make somebody love you without affecting free will?" Bruce wants to know. "Welcome to my world," God replies. "If you come up with an answer to that one, let me know."