In the recent Hollywood tradition of rehashing old television series, "Bewitched" has been rewitchcrafted for today's audiences. As a diehard fan of the original show, which ran from 1964-1972, I was fearful the movie version would make a mockery of it.
Well, magic happens in strange places – with or without a nose twitch – and the odd pairing of Nicole Kidman and Will Farrell put a new twist on an old broomstick. Kidman is Isabel Bigelow, a true witch who craves a life of mortal normalcy. She seeks real love without tricks or spells and in her quest moves, ironically, to LA. Her warlock father, played by the splendid Michael Caine, warns her against such fantasies but she is determined.
Meanwhile, there is Farrell's Jack Wyatt, a divorced B-list movie star desperately seeking a comeback. Jack is an asshole encouraged to be an even bigger one by his slimy agent, Ritchie. When the 'Bewitched' remake is offered, Jack jumps at the chance. Not only is he a big fan of the show but he needs this break and . . . he needs the right Samantha - an unknown.
When Jack spots Isabel's adorable nose in full twitch, he begs her to be his Samantha. Hilarity ensues, it really does. When is Will Farrell not absolutely hilarious? In this case, Farrell is given the opportunity to play a high-maintenance actor ("Make 20 cappuccinos and bring me the best one!") and takes it as far as it will go. In one memorable scene, he realizes the show may not be his ticket back: "I'm Darrin! Nobody remembers Darrin! They replaced him in the middle of the show and nobody even noticed!"
As for Nicole Kidman, does she ever let us down either? If so, I can't recall. It felt great seeing her onscreen in a silly, fun role, just dancing around and enjoying herself. With Kidman, you know whether the material is Shakespeare or Farrelly Brothers, she is taking it on with complete dedication. In this case, when Isabel is plopped in front of the TV eating straight from the Cool Whip container, talking to her cat and crying over her breakup with a jerk, you not only feel her pain, you love her for it.
In a wise, wise move, the film includes both Isabel and Jack separately watching, and completely enjoying, black and white episodes of the original show. For those in the audience too young, they can see exactly where all the inspiration is coming from and what they are shooting for. In fact, Isabel keeps a publicity shot of Elizabeth Montgomery at her make-up table and often asks her for advice.
There are several inferences that Elizabeth Montgomery herself was a talented witch trying to live a normal life, just as Isabel is doing. This layer upon layer of fiction/reality/fiction/realty is nearly Charlie Kaufman-esque, minus all that pesky backbone and disturbing darkness. With Shirley MacLaine as Endora, Steve Carrell as Uncle Arthur and Tony award-winning actress, Carole Shelley, as the clumsy but well-meaning Aunt Clara, it's a full-blown character reunion. Though it's a delightful film and harmless enough, one nagging question remains: Why did this film get made?
© 2005 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 6/29/05
USA - 2005