directed by Nora Ephron
(Sony, 2005)

Even though I'm still struggling with the concept of Will Ferrell getting the opportunity to romance Nicole Kidman onscreen -- and being paid buckets full of money, to boot -- I do have to say that I enjoyed Bewitched more than I thought I would.

I'm not saying there is anything at all substantial to the film, though, because there isn't. It's complete fluff -- but it's funny fluff. Ferrell is his typically hilarious bumbling self, Shirley MacLaine seems to really enjoy the chance to ham it up as Endora and Kidman is -- well, she's Nicole Kidman. I was as surprised as anyone when she took the role of the new Samantha, but she's quite good and as becoming as ever -- although this part certainly offered her no challenges whatsoever. Everyone in this film is good -- except Steve Carell, who proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that we will never see the likes of Paul Lynde again (which is probably a good thing).

I'm no fan of remakes, especially when so many of them are rather abysmal and usually leave me feeling quite offended on behalf of a show I have loved since I was a child. You have to give the filmmakers of Bewitched a little credit, though, for taking a different approach to this particular remake. They don't just recreate the original characters and give them an embarrassing script to run with; they do a film about recreating the original characters. Kidman isn't Samantha at all, she's Isabel Bigelow, the woman who plays Samantha in the remake. Of course, Isabel is herself a witch trying to live a normal life. Ferrell isn't Darren, he's Jack Wyatt, the guy who plays Darren. When Isabel and Jack fall for each other, it's the whole Samantha syndrome all over again. The plot sounds rather weak, doesn't it? I told you this was pure fluff.

Ferrell gets most of the laughs as a formerly successful movie actor trying to bounce back from a movie bust of Ishtar proportions; he's your typical me-centric actor who cares only about himself. If his move to TV in the form of the Bewitched remake falls through, he knows he's all but done in the business. That's why he insists that a complete no-name star as Samantha, one who won't mind the fact that he's stealing all of the spotlights. He thinks he finds just the woman in Isabel, who is in turn attracted to Jack because he's such an emotional mess (which is exactly what she is looking for in her quest to live a normal life) -- but of course he has no idea he's dealing with a real witch. The rest of the film is completely predictable, of course, and the Ferrell-Kidman matchup doesn't seem to have a whole heck of a lot of chemistry, but it's good, playful fun that doesn't try to be anything more than that.

MacLaine and Michael Caine lend a fair amount of class to the act, but it's purely the comedy incorporated into the script that makes this movie go.

The plot, besides being predictable, also has a few problems -- I for one would never have given Isabel a real-life Aunt Clara, and the whole Uncle Arthur scene is just embarrassing to have to watch. Ferrell's goofiness and Kidman's charm, though, prove strong enough to overcome the film's obvious faults. As long as you go in expecting nothing more than some good laughs, Bewitched should not prove disappointing.

by Daniel Jolley
4 February 2006

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