Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bewitched - A Reviewer Who's Bothered & Bewildered

You can't replace Elizabeth Montgomery. You can't replace Agnes Moorehead. And you can't replace Dick York, even though they already tried that.

The new Bewitched movie, starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell recognizes that, and tries to soothe our fears. They show us footage from the original, constantly referring to Montgomery as "Samantha," because, let's face it, she owned the part. They even give us pieces of the show that they think we want, including an Uncle Arthur (played deftly but too long by Steve Carell, he of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin"), Aunt Clara (played too stupidly, if you can believe that, by Carole Shelley), and the delicious Shirley MacLaine as Endora-slash-Iris, an actress who may or may not be a witch.

And to this eclectic soup, throw in Michael Caine as Kidman's father. Caine has been in every movie released this year, and, as usual, he adds a lot to any script. His character is fun although his story really goes nowhere, a raconteur warlock who meddles just a bit too much into his daughter's life. But who can blame him as the young Isabel, a real witch, is drawn to real human life but can't fend for herself? One of the funniest bits is when she swipes a tarot card as a credit card. She's really trying to give up the easy witch life and live a "normal" life. Apparently normal means becoming a television actress cast as Samantha opposite Will Ferrell's Darrin.

So we also get the beautiful Nicole Kidman as Samantha. Nicole channels Marilyn Monroe in voice and innocence, an interesting choice. But it's a choice that allows us to believe she'd fall for the stupid antics of Will's Jack, a lying egotistical actor who's trying to salvage a dying movie career by resurrecting this '60's comedy. Bewitched gives us several scenes of just Will being Will which are quite funny. However, this move lengthens the movie as do the inclusions of Aunt Clara, Uncle Arthur, and even next door neighbor Gladys Kravitz.

In the end, although this remake is long due to everything they thought we'd want stuffed into this package, it's a funny movie with clever and watchable people. Bewitched fans will certainly recognize their favorite characters. But if they're hoping for Montgomery and York, they can't get that. Settle for a mildly funny romp that allows Kidman, Ferrell and a rather lengthy cast to be themselves.

Okay, okay. Let's stop the b.s. and be honest: This is not a great film and it's even a stretch to say it's a good film. But I liked it in spite of its faults. Mostly I like the actors in these roles, and unabashedly I have to say, that's about it for this movie. Thumb's up, just barely.


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