Reviewed by: Curtis D. Smith
A US News and World Report poll reported that 35% do not believe in a hell. The US News January 31, 2000 cover story says “fire and brimstone” is “out of fashion, modern thinking says the netherworld isn’t so hot after all.” Is there an actual place called Hell? Go…
|Featuring:||Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O’Connor, Orlando Jones, Lou Ferrigno|
|Producer:||Harold Ramis, Trevor Albert|
|Distributor:||Twentieth Century Fox|
Just a week before the release of “Bedazzled”, Hollywood churned out yet another lame film about the devil when “Lost Souls” hit theaters. And just one week before that, it cranked out a dismal remake of a bygone film called “Get Carter.”
Based on the outcome of these dreadful efforts one would think that a remake combined with a story about the devil would go straight to video purgatory, but “Bedazzled” manages to succeed on the big screen with a certain amount of panache.
Drawing from the 1967 prototype that starred Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Raquel Welch, “Bedazzled” breathes life into the droll yet trite story line with simplistic ease because the devil, as it were, is in the film’s details rather than in its overall concept.
Seven wishes for the price of a soul is the upshot of “Bedazzled” and Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser) knows exactly what he wants in trade for it: the affection of a beautiful coworker named Alison Gardner (Frances O’Connor). The only thing that stands in her way is his irritating personality, he thinks, so when the devil (Elizabeth Hurley) tempts him with seven, “anything goes” wishes Elliot signs away his soul to become every woman’s dream man.
The only problem is he’s made his pact with the devil and the devil isn’t widely known for honesty and integrity. She grants his wishes alright, but continually adds a malevolent element to each wish that Elliot doesn’t expect, and his resulting angst is typically hilarious. First, she makes him the wealthy and good looking husband to Alison, but he soon learns that he is wealthy because he is a Columbian drug lord and Alison hates him because she is immersed in an affair with her English teacher.
Another scenario casts Elliot as the world’s most sensitive man—a red-headed, freckle-faced wimp who cries at the mere sight of a sunset and can’t stop blithering sappy poems. Alison can’t resist his moodiness initially, but she soon grows sick of his effeminate state and heads for the arms of a misogynistic jerk. And so the routine goes until Elliot finally deciphers Satan’s sadistic game and tries to get himself off the hook.
Curiously, the entertainemt value of each of Elliot’s wishes sort of wanes as they go, as if the filmmakers blew most of their budget on the first two scenes and had to play it safe with the remainder of the film. As the story proceeds the fantasies get more detailed and less innovative due to Elliot’s apparent distrust of the devil.
Fraser actually shows some Jim Carrey-like acting range playing the previously mentioned characters as well as his fairly convincing portrayal as an NBA jock. But Hurley is merely reduced to so much eye candy as she recites junior high-inspired sexual jokes while parading around in scant outfits.
Of course the film’s apex leads us by the nose to the moral lesson everyone knows, but readily ignores, that is, that beauty is only skin deep and we need to accept ourselves for who we are. Ho hum—another moral lesson handed down from Hollywood, and with help from the devil no less. It’s interesting once again to witness Hollywood’s view of Satan. Rather than portrayed as the spooky, sinister nemesis of the creator, he (or in this case, she) is portrayed as a mischievous and playfully attractive British woman who is just trying to do her job. At one point Elliot even feels pity for her thankless plight as the “lord of the underworld” and offers her solace. But his pity is quickly turned against him and he sees once again that the devil is not to be trusted. Hidden in this film are some remarkable (and no doubt inadvertent) truths about the nature of Satan. Over and over we witness deception, lies, unfulfilled promises of satisfaction and arrogance on the part of Hurley’s character, the father of lies (John 8:44). Rather than try to scare us with trite satanic manifestations the makers of Bedazzled have focused on the devil’s would-be personality in search of laughs.
Still, like the film’s promo clip asserts, the entertainment value is solid and the laughs are fairly frequent, especially at the beginning. Which brings up an interesting question. Why are there no awards for the people who make bad movies look great with movie trailers? Based on its trailer, “Lost Souls” looked like a winner, as have many other films this year, but most have been junk. And let’s not forget those promos that can proficiently sum up an entire film in 28 seconds.
The Academy should hereby create two new Oscar Awards categories: “The Blue Screen Awards” (for actors who do a terrific job performing in front of those blue special effects screens like Liam Neeson in “Star Wars: Episode I”) and “The Promo Trailer Awards.”
This is all a roundabout way of saying “Bedazzled” doesn’t get much better than its promotional trailer—which is not necessarily a bad thing. Let’s just put it this way: Don’t spend $8 on it, OK?