- Movie Rating -

Bewitched (2005)

| April 23, 2011 | 0 Comments

Few things make me cringe like the news that a television series is being reconstituted into a feature film, especially a classic sitcom. The basic sitcom format was designed for the small screen and does not automatically lend itself to a larger screen. Besides most sitcoms survive solely on the power of their stars not on premise. The practice of turning a TV show into a movies, for the most part, furthers the cheapening of Hollywood’s creative impulses. Granted, sometimes it pays off – ‘Addams Family Values’ was very good – but for every rare success, there are at least ten TV adaptations that don’t work.

Of all the classic TV shows I figured that “Bewitched” would be the easiest to adapt. Here is a show about the domestic life of a woman who is a really a witch and is forced to keep her powers under wraps. The formula is very simple: You give the witch some domestic problems and then solve them using her magical abilities. Give her a toddler who hasn’t yet learned how to use those magical powers responsibly and you’ve got something to work with. All you need to put together a good movie is a great cast, a great director, a great screenplay, some special effects and a cohesive plot and you’ve got a winner.

The result, sadly, is not a winner. Even with a great director like Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally) and great actors like Will Ferrell, Nicole Kidman and Shirley MacLaine in the cast, the movie is a mess. Instead of the workable notion of a housewife with magical powers, this screenplay is about the making of a remake of the old series.

Kidman doesn’t play Samantha Stevens, but rather Isabel Bigelow, a real-life witch who wants nothing more than a simple life without magical powers to fall back on. “I want to feel thwarted.”, she tells her father, ” I want to have days when my hair is affected by the weather.” My question is . . . why? Why does she want problems and inconveniences and disappointments and heartaches when every single thing she could ever want is right at the snap of her fingers? By sheer chance, she is spotted in a book store by Jack Wyatt (Ferrell), a movie star whose last few films have bombed so badly that his last movie made history by selling no copies at all. In an attempt to revive his sagging career, he takes the lead in a revival of Bewitched for television in the role of Darren. He catches Isabel twitching her nose in the bookstore and decides that she is perfect for the part. Openly, he admits that he wants her for the role because of the twitch, privately he wants an unknown to play Samantha so that all the attention will all be on him.

Apparently forgetting her wish to lead a normal life, Isabel takes the job anyway. Working on a movie set, she is subjected to all the usual Hollywood phoniness and hot air. She grows frustrated with her co-star and, at one point, uses her magic to make him flub his lines. We don’t object to this because for most of the movie Ferrell’s character is a jerk, a tantrum-throwing man-child who makes ridiculous demands of the cast and crew. The rest of the time we’re suppose to find him lovable so he can have a sweet romance with Isabel.

That kind of inconsistency is a major problem with ‘Bewitched’. Isabel isn’t really developed into a consistent character either. She has a father (Michael Caine) who is said to be 1,000 years old but we aren’t sure exactly how old she’s suppose to be. She has infinite power in the universe which she uses responsibly, if a little selfishly – as when she turns the clock back so she can order breakfast at a cafĂ© before 11am – but she seems a little dense. There are moments when she seems all-knowing and other moments when she seems like a bubbly five year-old. Kidman is one of the smartest actresses in the business. She has good instincts and seems at her best playing characters who are smart and intuitive. My feeling is that she was probably chosen for the role because she bears a resemblance to Elizabeth Montgomery.

The plot doesn’t work either. This is a movie made up of singular moments rather than a flowing plot. Some of the jokes work but the tone of the film is so cutesy-poo that is makes you want to gag. The right ideas are here. The right actors are here. The special effects are here. But there’s nothing to really bind it all together. Maybe they should have employed J.K. Rowling as a script doctor.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2005) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized