Friday, March 28, 2008
"So, were your parents in the witch business?"
Bewitched | dir. Nora Ephron | 2005
I think it is wise to say, first and foremost, that I have never watched a single episode of "Bewitched" in my life. I do have some familiarity with the television series through short television clips and magazine articles, but that doesn't amount to much. In result, I had no biased expectations for this film whatsoever. However, when it was released back in 2005, the film was critically-panned, but I always thought the trailers made it seem pleasantly entertaining--and that's the kind of movie Bewitched is. It's not memorable or groundbreaking, but it's fairly entertaining and fun.
The film stars Nicole Kidman as Isabel Bigelow, a witch who is giving up witchcraft so she can lead a normal life, much to her father's (Michael Caine) dismay. When movie star Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell) sees Isabel's impeccable nose-twitch at a bookstore, it was just what he needed for his "Bewitched" television remake. Jack thinks Isabel is perfect for the part--not only because she can twitch her nose like the star of the old TV show, but she is an unknown and will bring more attention to his diminishing fame. But Isabel falls in love with Jack immediately and agrees to star in the show. Things get testy when Isabel finds out Jack's selfish motives for casting her.
So, let's back up a bit, shall we? Our lovely witch Isabel has promised herself that she wants to lead a normal life, so she tries to give up witchcraft. Isabel decides to move to Hollywood, then is discovered by a movie star, and agrees to star in a television series in the legendary role of Samantha. In addition, she falls in love with the movie star whose personal life is all over the tabloids. Right. So much for a normal life.
All logics aside, there is one thing I did not buy: Kidman and Ferrell as an on-screen couple. The two are obviously having some fun; Kidman is taking a break from her usual serious roles and Ferrell is well, being Ferrell. But there is very little romantic chemistry and the dialogue for their interactions are often poorly written. There is a fair amount of awkwardness from Kidman as she convinces the audience that she can act in a light comedic affair. But I guess in a fan's point of view, she looks enough like Elizabeth Montgomery to pull it off.
Ferrell, on the other hand, doesn't quite look like Dick York, so that doesn't help him much. There are multiple scenes, especially when Kidman's Isabel puts those hexes on Ferrell's Jack, where Ferrell is overacting and looks strangely like he's about to explode. I guess there are a few scenes that did work--like the scenes during the couple's date--but those scenes are overshadowed by the scenes that feel overly silly and forced.
While Kidman and Ferrell are trying so hard to be convincing and fun, the supporting cast deliver effortlessly satisfying performances. Caine is nicely cast as the concerned father. Shirley MacLaine is bubbly as Iris Smythson, a fellow witch starring as Endora in the TV show. Jason Schwartzman is hilarious as the fast-talking agent of Jack Wyatt. Kristin Chenoweth has a wonderfully sunny presence in the film. Steve Carell has a great cameo as Uncle Arthur--whom I believe was a major character in the original TV Show--near the end of the film.
I admire the script for its originality, though. I like how it didn't do a straight remake of the show but instead came up with a smart little plot of its own. But the dialogue and the character development aren't as smart and promising as its premise. But like I said before, I was pleasantly entertained by the film, mainly because the supporting cast had such an upbeat, energetic presence. I guess I was partially amused by Kidman and Ferrell's forced performances, but for all the wrong reasons.
This film is directed and co-written by Nora Ephron, who has been a overwhelming force in the production of successful romantic comedies in the past twenty years. Her resume includes When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You've Got Mail. Ephron's films all share a certain undeniable charm, and she does it again in Bewitched. Sure, the film is flawed and has multiple cliches, but it's harmless and I enjoyed it for the most part.