out of Five
Running time: 102
OPENS FRI 19TH AUGUST
The 1960s TV show Bewitched gained a whole new audience of devotees when it was one of the first American shows to be aired on Channel 4 back in the 1980s. In fact, it recently received another C4 airing, this time in the 8.30am slot.
With a built-in audience comprising several generations, it’s fair to say that expectations were quite high when it was announced that Nicole Kidman would star in a movie version of the show, alongside Jim Carrey. However, the finished film is far from perfect: Will Ferrell replaced Carrey and the script appears to have gone through several rewrites, leaving a messy, disappointing comedy that’s woefully bereft of magic.
Set in L.A, the film stars Nicole Kidman as Isabel, a good-natured witch trying to live a normal life and finding that giving up magic isn’t quite as easy as she thought, particularly with her wizard father (Michael Caine) passing comment all the time. Meanwhile, egotistical actor Jack Wyatt (Will
Ferrell) is trying to get his career back on track by retooling classic sitcom Bewitched as a star vehicle for himself, playing hapless mere-mortal Darrin.
When he meets Isabel, he’s smitten by her uncanny nose-twitching ability and convinces her to play Samantha in the show. At the same time, the slightly naïve Isabel mistakes Jack’s interest in her as romantic and starts to fall for him, believing him to be the “normal” man she’s been looking for.
Bewitched has a great premise; it starts well and there are some very funny early scenes, such as Isabel’s “ad-libbed” audition and Wyatt’s scenes with his over-attentive agent (Jason Schwartzman). However, about half-way through there’s a horrendous scene where the action magically “rewinds” and it’s as if the film-makers literally decided to throw out everything that had gone before and change direction.
Kidman is appealing as Isabel, but her breathless, overly naïve, faux-Marilyn Monroe act gets tiresome after a while. Ferrell is funny when he’s allowed to cut loose with the wacky voices but you can’t help feeling that original choice Jim Carrey would have been much better in the role.
The main problem is that the central romance doesn’t really work. In addition, aside from a depressing lack of laugh-out-loud gags, the film also suffers from Nora Ephron Movie Syndrome, in that every song spells out what the characters are supposed to be thinking – e.g. Isabel and Jack’s moping montage is set to REM’s “Everybody Hurts”. On top of that, there are infuriating continuity lapses, with the characters frequently contradicting themselves.
In short, Bewitched is extremely disappointing, despite its decent premise and the cast’s best efforts. It’s also one of those films where if you’ve seen the trailer then you’ve seen all the jokes. Wait for the video.