Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
|Featuring:||Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Steve Carell|
|Producer:||Lucy Fisher, Douglas Wick|
Instead of taking the old show and reheating it for the modern generation, “Bewitched” has been lovingly remembered in this film, and Elizabeth Montgomery and the original cast has been given respect where respect is deserved.
Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman has nailed this comedic part, once again showing her talent knows no boundaries) is a 21st century witch looking to give up her spellbound lifestyle for the human side of life. She wants a little house in the valley and to experience the normal, or what she conceives to be the normal, uncomplicated existence of pure human culture. Although, through the first few scenes, we see it isn’t as easy as she had hoped, Isabel vows valiantly that each little spell will be her last.
Isabel’s Dad (a sophisticated Michael Caine) shows up to give Isabel some fatherly advice that is sadly off the mark in any culture. When Isabel explains she doesn’t crave the instant gratification that a witch has, but rather is looking for love, real love. She is looking for someone to love her for herself and not for what she can do for him. Isabel wants a man who truly needs her. Daddy says that’s too complicated, that it is much easier to say “I love you” to get someone to go home with you, and then when things get “messy” just say “I don’t love you any more” and be done with it. Isabel instinctively knows that’s not the right road and sets off to find the rightful path to true spell-free happiness.
Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell) does not disappoint. He had ’em rolling in the aisles. He plays an actor on the brink of being a has-been. His sly agent has gotten him the plush part of Darrin on the new, improved TV show “Bewitched” and encourages Jack to be an animal, fiercely insisting on getting all that he deserves as the high ranking star he is. Although Jack is really a pussy cat inside, he takes his agent’s advice and demands many nearly undoable requests including turning down all well known actresses for the part of Samantha, and demands a totally unknown face. The “nose” is a big selling point for Jack, and his crew has casting call after casting call searching for “The Nose.”
Isabel, needing a job, goes to Book Soup on Sunset in hopes of finding a how-to book about job hunting. Jack happens to be there and is mesmerized by the tweak of her nose just before a sneeze. He has found his Samantha at long last.
Jack persuades Isabel to read for the part on a new TV show, and since Isabel needs a job, she decides it wouldn’t be so bad to be a famous TV star. At the rehearsal, everyone is impressed that Isabel is such a natural for the part of a witch that she is instantly signed on as Samantha Stevens.
As Isabel is so very innocent about just what “normal” is, she is easily seduced into thinking Jack actually loves her when she and he are in character. Because she intuitively sees Jack’s real self and understands he is a hopeless mess, this makes him even more adorable to her. He is attracted to her, but is put off course while doing every ruthless thing his agent tells him to do to keep up his sagging image. Isabel, overhearing a conversation between Jack and his agent, concludes he never cared about her after all and is deeply hurt.
“What would Samantha do?” is her question, and being a witch Samantha would use her knowledge of spells to win Jack’s heart. With the help of Isabel’s Aunt Clara (a throw back to the original series) a hex is put upon Jack who instantly becomes a little too enamored of Isabel, to her despair. Isabel, knowing a spell will never give her true love from Jack, undoes Aunt Clara’s hex and rewinds time to put it back into reality. Isabel takes the chance of letting things take their natural course, even though she may loose Jack forever.
Through the timeline of today and watching episodes of the original “Bewitched”, somehow Isabel gets what is reality and what is not, confusing as that may be to her. Just imagine trying to find true love in a world where make believe is natural, then throw in the fact that she is indeed a witch and could change it all to her advantage if she so desired. Isabel proves to be a strong and moral person after all is said and done. After calling a spade a spade (“Jack, you’re a selfish, self centered jerk!”), Isabel is taken seriously, and Jack asks for her forgiveness with a heart felt “I’m sorry,” not an easy thing for an actor with an over blown ego to nurture (not to mention the agent).
Just when we think all is well, the x-wife shows up wanting to come back into Jack’s life mainly because she smells all his new money. Isabel is nearly overcome with urges to use her spells to fix this situation, and in the end a few ear tugs do the trick. She feels awful about using her powers again after she promised herself she wouldn’t and is determined to tell Jack she is in fact a real witch. This confession causes another set of misunderstandings (not to mention scaring poor Jack senseless), and the star-crossed lovers separate in a whirlwind of magic tricks and flying brooms.
In the end, Uncle Arthur (another character from the original “Bewitched”) comes to the rescue and convinces Jack that Isabel is the one and only girl for him. The couple are reminded that even though Samantha and Darrin were caught between two worlds, their love made it work because it was true love—no tricks.
There is no place in life to try and coheres someone into love. It must happen naturally, as God intended it to be between two people. An awe struck Isabel says it all when she whispers at the end, “Something magical happened all by itself!”
Let’s keep in mind that this is a fantasy. There was not much objectionable material as far as the witchcraft went because this story was not so much about witchcraft as human character and comedy. Many of that generation will love the fact that they kept the original TV show intact and didn’t mess with it except for some enhanced special effects.
The movie has fun with Ferrell on the star trip, and with Kidman’s love-hate relationship with magic. It has a lot of good supporting work, including Jason Schwartzman as Jack’s agent and Shirley McClaine as Samantha’s mother (her theory on actors: “Sometimes deep down there is no deep down”).
The PG-13 rating has finally got it pretty much right with this one. There were only two profanities uttered and a couple of boarder-line utterances of “Don’t be a pussy-wussy” and “Don’t be the Mayor of pussy-town; be the Sheriff of ballsville,” when the agent character is trying to get Jack’s character to be a go-getter with his career.
There were two scenes which were keyed down, but will send up a red flag to Christian parents. Isabel’s Dad is a definite womanizer and is very open about catching women only to seduce them (he finds true love in the end, and we are made hopeful that his philandering days are over). There is also a scene where Jack has a dream he appears on Conan O’Brian’s talk show naked (there are blurred out areas on Will Ferrell’s body, but there is no doubt he is completely nude). There is a comment by one character about having sex on an elliptical machine.
I was impressed with the fact that falling in love was sweet and fun, and there was no sex between Isabel and Jack. They knew they were in love because they liked each other as they were and were willing to accept each other as they were—rather than try and change each other.
People may go to see “Bewitched” for different reasons, and some critics may criticize it for it’s lacking in some form or another. I went to see it for the sake of nostalgia and got much more. Pure comedy, from a more relaxed, innocent time we will never experience again.
Violence: None / Profanity: Minor / Sex/nudity: Moderate
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