Befuddling charm found in ‘Bewitched’
Here’s proof that not all movie critics are jaded about the abhorrent amount of movies that are either based on TV shows, are remakes of formerly popular films, or simply sequels of movies that had no business being made in the first place. “Bewitched,” for all its seeming predictability, is quite a bemusing little film.
It doesn’t even try to copy its source material, the well known TV series made famous by Elizabeth Montgomery, only borrowing its plot and some ideas from the show. That’s surprise No. 1, and the film pokes fun at the industry itself while maintaining a breezy spirit that allows its principles to take some liberties.
Will Ferrell is Jack Wyatt, a fabulously vainglorious actor who desperately needs a hit. DVD sales of his last film: Zero.
He’s asked to play Darrin in a remake of “Bewitched,” and after an exhaustive search he finds non-actress, real life witch Isabel Bigelow. Naturally, she’s perfect to portray Samantha. While keeping her true identity a secret, (Isabel is trying to avoid relying on her powers because she longs for a normal life), and much to Jack’s chagrin, Isabel snags the spotlight.
Kidman and Ferrell are genuinely having fun, and there is a surprising amount of silly chemistry between the two. Supporting cast members Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine have nice cameos as a counseling father figure Nigel and the strong-willed matriarch Iris. The witchy powers surface as one would expect, but are not overused, which is unexpected. Iris’s thwarting of Nigel’s playboy intimations by getting bimbos to say bimbo-esque things is almost as funny as watching Isabel alter Jack’s conversation into Shakespearean and then Spanish monologues.
As Isabel’s dizzy neighbor, Kristin Chenoweth gets to demonstrate the bouncy twinkle she displayed during her lustrous Broadway run as “Glinda” in “Wicked.”
Kidman’s comedic instincts are just right here. She’s innocently winsome in a role that many actresses would overcook. At one point she says about Jack, “He’s idiotic but irresistibly charming.”
That aptly describes Ferrell himself, not just his character. Here he continues the guileless goofiness that made much of his screen work watchable (“Elf,” “Anchorman,” “Melinda and Melinda.”) It is quite possible that Ferrell may go on to have the best post-“Saturday Night Live” career of any former cast member. Of course, that isn’t the outrageous prophecy it might seem when considering the preponderance of duds that fill the resumes of Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Dan Akroyd, Chevy Chase etc…
“Bewitched” is a minor comeback for writer/director Nora Ephron, who reached her zenith over a decade ago, authoring “When Harry Met Sally” and directing “Sleepless in Seattle.” Some of her magic returns in a film that is fairly inoffensive, (Will Ferrell = partial nudity), occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, and while ultimately pretty formulaic has enough charm to win over a few cynics. And that’s nothing at which to shake a stick — or wiggle your nose.
Rated PG-13 for some language including sex and drug references, partial nudity.