** (out of 5)
June 24, 2005
Nicole Kidman as ISABEL BEGELOW/SAMANTHA
Will Ferrell as JACK WYATT/DARREN
Shirley MacLaine as IRIS SMYTHSON/ENDORA
Michael Caine as NIGEL BEGELOW
Jason Schwartzman as RITCHIE
Kristin Chenoweth as MARIA KELLY
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Nora Ephron
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Hollywood amazes me. You hear any quote from a studio head, and it sounds like they’re searching for the newest, most creative thing to make into a movie. Then you turn around and see the multiplexes filled with nothing but remakes, sequels and big screen adaptations.
In the creative vacuum of Hollywood, it is only a matter of time before any particular classic TV show is turned into a feature film. We’ve seen everything from beloved family shows (like “The Flintstones”) to weak excuses for sketch comedy (like “The Coneheads”).
We’ve got “The Dukes of Hazzard” coming up this summer, aiming for the same audience as last year’s “Starsky and Hutch.” But before that, we’ve got “Bewitched,” starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell.
As Hollywood has done with its bevy of television remakes, they’ve tried to put a new spin on this one. Instead of just retreading the story of Samantha and Darren, they went for the movie-within-a-movie concept.
Will Farrell plays Jack Wyatt, a slouching movie star trying to find his next vehicle to extend his fame. He stumbles across some television producers who want to revitalize “Bewitched.” Determined to downplay the role of Samantha, he finds an unknown that he can control. He lucks into finding Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman), but doesn’t realize that she is, in fact, a real witch herself.
Sigh. I wish they had just gone with the straight remake. It just seems that writer/director Nora Ephron had too much of her own angst to get out when it comes to love in Hollywood. This just got in the way. In short, I wasn’t thrilled about the characters. (A lesson to Hollywood – we generally like it more when you play other people instead of people in Hollywood.)
I’ll admit that this plot device is cute, but really seems forced. I’d be okay with it if the original show had such little comedy real estate that they needed to smooth it over with a completely different story. I didn’t watch much “Bewitched” growing up, but I see plenty of opportunity in the premise. Why mess it up with something that it wasn’t.
While Kidman makes a solid Samantha, she doesn’t hold the same allure that Elizabeth Montgomery did back in the old show. Will Ferrell is always funny, but like his performance in this year’s “Kicking and Screaming,” his comedic moments just don’t fit in the film itself.
But the real tragedy was a cavalcade of wasted performances by a great supporting cast. Michael Caine shows up as Isabel’s dad, Shirley MacLaine plays the character in the role of Endora, and Steve Carell makes a rather funny but completely inexplicable cameo as Uncle Arthur.
A lot of the blame for this movie goes to Nora Ephron. She was a pretty good writer in her day. After all, she gave us the script for “When Harry Met Sally.” But when she took her first steps into directing, we were given some of the weaker romantic comedies like “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail.” With this in mind, I will give “Bewitched” some credit. At least it was a stretch for Ephron.
Looking at the pieces of “Bewitched,” you might think there’s a decent film in there somewhere. At least the screening audience that I saw it with seemed to like the film. But it didn’t have the cohesiveness needed to really make things work. And with such little chemistry between the characters, I’m surprised this film was actually completed.