Bewitched review by Mike Long

In this age when the Hollywood remake machine appears to be unstoppable, it seems to pointless to continue questioning why producers are remaking old movies and TV shows. We know why we are making them -- for the money. No, now we must look at what kind of remake is being done. Is it an exact duplication? A satire of the original? A "re-imagining? Bewitched is that rare remake that actually offers a good idea to both update and change the original material. But, good ideas don't always turn into good movies.

Nicole Kidman stars in Bewitched as Isabel Bigelow, a witch who has decided to join the world of mortals. (For reasons which we are never told.) She moves into a house and attempts to lead a normal life, claiming that she'll give up witchcraft. Her father, Nigel (Michael Caine), feels that Isabel will fail and urges her to return home.

Meanwhile, washed-up actor Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell) is trying to get his career back on track by starring in an updated TV version of the classic show "Bewitched". He and his agent, Ritchie (Jason Schwartzman) negotiate a deal for Jack, but they still need someone to play Samantha. While shopping one day, Jack runs into Isabel, and seeing that she can wiggle her nose, convinces her to audition. Given the fact that she can wiggle her nose, and that she seems to inexplicably grasp the witch humor, Isabel gets the role. Isabel's happiness over this turn of events is short-lived however, as she soon learns that she is simply Jack's pawn and that he has no plans for her to excel on the show. She then drops her promise to give up magic and sets forth to get revenge.

Once again, co-writer/director Nora Ephron and co-writer Delia Ephron have come up with an ingenious idea for Bewitched. The premise of a real witch starring in an updated version of the old TV show is a great concept. But, the momentum created by the story's originality derailed almost as soon as the film begins. From the outset, I felt as if I was watching a sequel instead of a remake. The film opens with Isobel arriving from somewhere else in order to start a new life. But, other than the idea that she wants to have a "normal" life, we don't know where Isabel came from ("Witchland", I guess), or what her life was like there. Once the plot gets going, things make more sense, but the story falls apart completely at the end. For those who are actually interested, I won't explain exactly why the story collapses, but Isabel has a change of heart which I didn't buy.

There is also a serious problem with the cast in this film. With The Stepford Wives, Nicole Kidman proved that she couldn't do high-camp, and with Bewitched she apparently shows that she can't do light comedy either. Other than the scenes in which she is angry, Kidman never looks comfortable and she has no chemistry at all with Will Ferrell. In fact, she appears to be channeling Meg Ryan, not only in her actions, but appearance as well. I've found Ferrell very humorous in other films, but his over-the-top style is totally out-of-place in this movie and his attempts to overtake every scene cripple the film. (It's ironic that the hyperactive Ferrell is playing an actor who always wants the spotlight to be on him.) There are many scenes which contain the kind of showboating we've come to expect from Ferrell, in which he restates things over and over, and I can't imagine why Ephron allowed this footage to remain in the film. The oddest role in the film belongs to Shirley MacLaine, who plays Iris, the actress cast as Endora on the show. The oddity here has nothing to do with MacLaine's performance but with the fact that she's barely in the film. She has a few scenes "in the show" and a couple of moments in the real world, but nothing else. A big secret is revealed about her character, and things still go nowhere. The true standout in the film is the ever-reliable Michael Caine, who brings much needed stability to his role.

Bewitched is one of the few remakes where I can clearly see what the filmmakers were trying to do and I don't have a problem with that. However, their experiment failed miserably, as the movie collapses under its own weight. Whereas the script needed to be broader, Ferrell needed to be less so, and Nicole Kidman simply looks lost. If you must rent this film, don't be afraid of falling under its spell.

Bewitched flies onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as the picture is sharp and clear. There is no noticeable grain on the image and the picture is free from defects from the source material. Ephron has chosen to give the film a very pastel look and those colors come across great on this transfer, although the image was somewhat bright at times. I noticed some mild artifacting, but it was nothing to get horribly upset over. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which offers clear dialogue and sound effects. The musical score sounded fine and the stereo separation was good. Being a dialogue-driven comedy, there was a plethora of surround sound or subwoofer effects, but when they did arrive, as in a thunder sound, they were passable.

The DVD contains several extra features. The film can be viewed with a "Witch Vision Trivia Track", which is a "Pop-up Video"-like feature where tidbits about the film appear on-screen. We then have an "Audio Commentary" from co-writer/director Nora Ephron. This is sort of an odd commentary, for at times she sounds as if she's talking about a movie that someone else made. She gives specifics about the script and the actors, and makes some mention of locations, but it's all done with a real distance. Oddly, she never goes into detail about the quality of the film or how it was received. There are six "Deleted Scenes" which are underwhelming and provide no new information, nor are there any additional scenes with the AWOL MacLaine. "Casting a Spell: Making Bewitched" (23 minutes) is the standard featurette, containing comments from the cast & crew and a lot of clips. It focuses on the script, the casting/actors, and the look of the film. "Bewitched: Star Shots" offers brief looks at the 8 major characters in the film. With "Why I Loved Bewitched", the cast & crew reminisce about the TV show. The extras are rounded out by the "Bewitched Trivia Game

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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