If the movie was anything like the television show Bewitched, Judge Ryan Keefer thinks, they would have traded out husbands halfway through the film. Will Smith and Nicole Kidman may have made for interesting viewing.
Our reviews of Bewitched: The Complete First Season (Black And White) (published August 10th, 2005), Bewitched: The Complete Second Season (published December 14th, 2005), Bewitched: The Complete Sixth Season (published May 7th, 2008), and Bewitched: The Complete Eighth Season (published July 14th, 2009) are also available.
"I love that show! Is that the one with the genie?"
Have we had enough of turning old TV shows into big studio films? Please? Aside from this remake of the '60s show by the same name, in 2005 there's been one for The Dukes of Hazzard. There have been unwanted remakes (The Longest Yard and The Amityville Horror) and sequels to Miss Congeniality and The Transporter that question one's belief in the sanity of studio executives. Is Bewitched an island of entertainment in an ocean of mediocrity?
Facts of the Case
Presuming for a second that no one has ever watched repeats of the television show on Nick at Nite, the premise is that the central female character is a real-life honest to goodness witch, whose family are the only ones aware of her secret. In this new theatrical version, Nicole Kidman (The Hours) reprises the role first portrayed by Elizabeth Montgomery, as a witch named Isabel who wants to live out her life as a human being, renouncing her witch powers much to the dismay of her father Nigel (Michael Caine, Batman Begins). She lives in California, where Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy) is a top actor whose star has lost a bit of its shine, and his manager and agent suggest recreating the Bewitched TV show, with Jack playing the husband Darrin, thereby resurrecting his career.
Jack starts a massive casting call, and is unable to find the perfect Samantha for the role. Almost by accident, he runs into Isabel, and immediately casts her. Isabel is conflicted, since she doesn't want to use her powers anymore, but when she finds out Wyatt's motives for her casting, she decides to take matters in her own hands.
A film like this, with a hackneyed premise, did have some potential. Ferrell was coming off of success as Ron Burgundy, and Kidman had shown a little bit of her comedic chops in To Die For and to a lesser extent, Moulin Rouge!. But in Bewitched, Kidman comes off as a dimwitted, breathy blonde, and Ferrell is comedically neutered. He shows very little original humor in the film, and the recurring male nudity, peppered with some scenes of screaming or crying returned too. It's sad in a way, the dialogue, which wasn't that funny to begin with, just doesn't hit its mark, and if you've seen him in films like Old School or even Elf, he's clearly funnier than here. Conservatively, he may say five things in the 102 minutes of Bewitched that are funny, the rest is schmaltzy one-liners filled with pop-culture references that only Californians may understand and react too, that is, if they were funny. Written by Nora and Delia Ephron, responsible for other films like You've Got Mail and Michael, the story goes from the television show to a romantic comedy, where a callous actor is transformed into a lovesick puppy overnight, with very little explanation or exposition.
And what is the center of this puppy's attention? Kidman plays a prototypical bubblehead who is only smart when she decides to turn back clocks for breakfast or to magically change the spending level on a credit card. She is surrounded by assistants on the show whose names I don't remember and whose performances I forget. And the woman has done such outstanding dramatic work, and what little comedic work has been good, but this film is insulting to her talent. It's like drinking milk from the fridge that expired two years ago. Now, to the production's credit, casting Shirley MacLaine (Terms of Endearment) as Endora is a nice touch, but like most everything else in the production, is a little recycled (and was done in the Albert Brooks film Defending Your Life), and not too enjoyable, although MacLaine does a lot with what little screen time she has. Such is the case for Caine, who with his supporting role as Alfred in Batman Begins, can make whatever shoddy film he wishes in between. Jaws The Revenge being the prime example to his career.
All in all, the film was a horrible waste of time, both in the theater (yes, I'm admitting to it, because that's the first step to acknowledging a problem) and on video. Of all the directions the Ephrons could have taken with this, they chose the worst one available and ran it into the ground for an hour and a half.
As far as technical merits and supplemental materials go, there's not too much worth remembering. The deleted scenes are bland, the featurettes are generic, and there's a trivia quiz of about 35 questions that, at the end of it, leads to nothing. Much like the film, it's an interesting premise with no payoff. Another interesting note, the sisters Ephron explain that the story was almost pulled together at the last minute, which I don't doubt.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Until his starring role in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Steve Carell had been stealing scenes in films like Anchorman. And in Bewitched, he appears near the end as the ghost of the TV show's Uncle Arthur, played by the late Paul Lynde. Carell's interpretation of Lynde is dead-on for anyone who ever saw the comedian on the old Hollywood Squares shows of the '70s, and it's very funny. He doesn't save this dog, but does help to stop the walkouts.
You know how when you watch a trailer to a movie, like it, then you go see the movie? At what point do you realize that the trailer contained not only the best moments of the film, but the only entertaining moments of it? For me, it was shortly after the second act of Bewitched. Movies have been far funnier and better with lesser known stars, and another solid concept started by television is left ruined by theatrical aspirations.
The filmmakers and actors are guilty on all counts. Court is adjourned; please escort the parties out of the courtroom post haste, the court needs to wash this bad taste out of its mouth with as much diesel fuel as possible.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary with Director Nora Ephron
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