Friday, March 2, 2012

Bewitched Movie Review

Remakes of old television shows into movies generally aren’t phenomenal. These remakes seem to be an attempt for the baby boomer generation to enjoy one last fling with a show they enjoyed growing up with, and to possibly spark some interest in a younger audience. For example, The Addams Family (1991) was not bad, but the whole novelty behind it was that it was an Addams Family movie. Nora Ephron’s Bewitched (2005) seemed to be vying to rekindle interest in the classic 1960’s television show, but it seemed more like a poorly disguised promotional advertisement rather than a nostalgic trip down television lane.
Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman) is a naïve, good-natured witch who is moving to San Fernando Valley to reinvent herself and escape from the superficiality of the witch world. Her Father (Michael Caine) doesn’t think this is a wise move for her, and tries to convince her to come home. Washed up actor, Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell) is attempting to save his career and pursues an updated version of the well known sit-com, Bewitched. Jack insists on getting no name actors to fill the cast to ensure that he looks all the better in contrast, especially for the role of Samantha; they need the nose wiggle to be just right. After encountering each other at a bookstore, Jack persuades Isabel to play Samantha for Bewitched. Isabel tries to keep it a secret that she is a witch while she pretends to be a witch trying to keeping it a secret that she is a witch. Isabel gets frustrated with Jack’s shallow superficiality, but keeps given him second chances until the end up falling in love and start making the show a success. Finally, Isabel reveals to Jack that she actually is a witch but it doesn’t go over as well between them as it did between the two television characters they portray.
Bewitched is a meta-Bewitched movie. It’s a movie about making a television show based on a television show. Nearly every character with any significant dialogue mentions how much they loved the original show; Isabel wonders to herself what Samantha would do in her situation, Jack talks about how he loved Bewitched as a kid, and so on. It’s clear that in writing Bewitched the TV show was well consulted for content, but it is only talked about, not incorporated. The only real similarities are that there is a witch trying to be normal who falls in love with a human. All of the references and set recreations from the old television show seem to expect the viewer to recall fond memories, but when coupled with such a cliché love story, the fondness is besmirched.
Some of the actors were well cast, but had an additional character to play between them and the ideal role. Nicole Kidman would have made a good Samantha, and Shirley MacLaine would have made a good Endora (Samantha’s mother), but instead they were cast as actors portraying those characters. They didn’t get to play those roles that they were well suited for and instead got to play some uninteresting character trying to play Samantha and Endora. Will Ferrell once again is typecast as a stupid, rude, and conceited loser. Ferrell always seems to try very hard to convince the audience that he’s funny by acting over the top and by rapid-firing weak gags and juvenile jokes. When he’s in a role like this he seems to be acting toward the audience rather than getting a natural interaction between him and the other actors. Will Ferrell is great in his counter-typecast roles, such as in Stranger than Fiction (2006), but he ends up being obnoxious in his usual casting.
Lots of cameo appearances show up in Bewitched including Stephen Colbert, James Lipton, and Conan O'Brien. Among the more bizarre cameos is Carole Shelley playing Aunt Clara, and Steve Carell playing Uncle Arthur. Both characters are relatives of Samantha from the original Bewitched show. The original TV series is stated a number of times that it was “just a TV show.” But somehow Samantha’s relatives show up for no logical reason. Aunt Clara helps Isabel cast a spell on Jack, but Isabel thinks nothing of the doorknob stealing character from television. Uncle Albert is Jack’s favorite character who shows up out of nowhere to help Jack race after Isabel.  The movie even draws attention to the surrealist situation. Uncle Albert is driving Jack recklessly through traffic in pursuit of Isabel and Jack cries out, “I'm going to be killed by a fictional character!” It never explains why these two characters from a television show that is established to be a work of fiction appears in real life. The movie’s setting violates its own rules this way.
The all star cast had such potential to make a decent Bewitched movie, but the additional level of separation in this “meta-movie” really weakened the impact of the story’s potential, and Will Ferrell’s typecast role only made the movie more annoying. This movie is not Bewitched, it is about some actors trying to make a Bewitched remake. If you’re a really big fan of the old TV show, you might enjoy hearing the characters talk about the TV show, but you will be disappointed by the fact that your favorite characters aren’t in the movie that it is claiming to remake. If you’re not already a Bewitched fan, you would probably be better off spending the evening with The Addams Family.

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