Monday, June 02, 2003

The Anal Film Critic

I saw “Bruce Almighty” last night, and it was actually quite funny. Not Jim Carey’s best, but I got a few good belly laughs out of it, which is all I was really expecting. But, as per usual, I have a couple of nits to pick.

Nit #1: The writers of the movie clearly had no concept of how blood typing works. Jennifer Aniston’s character says she should donate blood because she has a rare blood type: AB+. Well, AB+ is indeed rare, constituting only 3% of the population, but that doesn’t make it desirable in the blood banks. People with AB+ blood are universal recipients (they can receive any blood type), but very exclusive donors: only other AB+’s can receive from them. Thus, any blood donated by an AB+ person can only be used by 3% of the recipient population. The type of blood most in demand is O–, because it can be received by anyone – most importantly, people whose blood type is unknown. Also (small spoiler coming), Jim Carey’s character eventually winds up in the hospital and sees that he is receiving AB+ blood. The implication is that he is truly blessed by the fact that AB+ people like Aniston have chosen to donate. But unless Carey’s doctors screwed up royally, he too must be AB+, in which case he could have received blood from anyone.

Nit #2: Okay, you really should stop reading now if you’re averse to spoilers. As I predicted when I first heard the premise of the movie, the only constraint on the use of God’s power is the free will of individuals: you can’t make people act contrary to their own choices. If you’re looking for a half-plausible explanation for why God can’t just snap his fingers and make the world a wonderful place, that one’s not half bad. But the obstacles Carey meets in the movie seem to have little to do with free will. The first major difficulty he encounters is limited cognitive resources: he doesn’t have enough brain power to organize and respond to the millions of prayers he receives each day. But hold on a minute – I thought God was supposed to be omniscient and omnipotent, in which case brain space shouldn’t be an issue. God should be the consummate multi-tasker, able to comprehend and reply to an infinite number of prayers while watching the Grand Ole Opry, reading Mad Magazine, and singing “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor.” [Bonus points for anyone who can name that pop culture reference.] Later, after just granting everyone’s wishes so he won’t have to listen to every single prayer, Carey finds himself bound by little things like economic laws – e.g., when thousands of people win the lottery, each person only wins about $17. Again, this seems like the kind of thing that should be well within the power of an all-powerful being to change. If God can alter the laws of physics, economic laws (and the rules of math, for that matter) should be a no-brainer. And in any case, being omniscient, he should at least have become immediately aware of any undesirable consequences of his wish-granting.

Forgive me, because it’s a bit unfair to hold a lightweight comedy up to rigorous standards of philosophical and theological consistency. If Carey had not encountered the problems mentioned above, the movie would not have been nearly as fun. But I’m sticking to my guns on Nit #1, because O– blood is both rare (only 7% of the population) *and* useful.

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