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BEWITCHED

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLane, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristen Chenoweth, Heather Burns, Jim Turner, Stephen Colbert, David Alan Grier, Steve Carell
Director: Nora Ephron
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Sony Home Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 102 Minutes
Release Date: October 25, 2005

“Guess what? I’m a witch.”

“Guess what? I’m a Clippers fan.”

Film **

I was not an avid viewer of Bewitched television series, which ran from 1964 to 1972. All I was familiar with was the beautiful star of the show, Elizabeth Montgomery, twinkling her nose like someone out of a Disney animated movie. The storyline basically consisted of a real witch enduring the life of a married woman.

It was only a matter of time before Bewitched got hit by the movie bug, like every popular TV show of the time. What caught my attention about the movie were two things. The first was the pairing of the alluring Nicole Kidman and the hilarious Will Ferrell; the second was a neat little twist on the “TV show being adapted to movie” formula.

If anything, director and co-writer Nora Ephron certainly had a good idea in mind. The idea is that the show itself isn’t really being made into a movie, but the show exists within the movie. It’s just too bad that the execution isn’t as gripping and exciting as the premise itself.

The story consists of an actor name Jack Wyatt (Ferrell), whose film career has taken a back seat following a number of big box office disasters, one of which was a mega-budgeted war epic named “Katmandu”. Now it appears that Jack will need to restart his career as the lead in a big television series, particularly one in the form of an update on the classic “Bewitched” series. Although Jack is playing the supporting role of Darrin Stephens, he wants to be THE STAR and makes it clear that he’ll be in the show on one condition; that a complete unknown is cast as Samantha, the witch.

After several unimpressive auditions, Jack sees the show as nothing more than a disaster which will put his career even further in the toilet. That is, until he comes across the beautiful Isabel Bigelow (Kidman), who he sees twinkling her nose by accident. He then convinces her to star alongside him in the series, which she agrees to almost instantly since she’s always longed to be needed.

If you look at the history of TV sitcoms being made into movies, the track record isn’t the best. Most of them fail miserably due to being way too lame. Ironically enough, I was a big fan of Steve Martin’s 1996 Sgt. Bilko remake, which didn’t get much love from the critics.

And while Bewitched isn’t entirely lame, it manages to fail in an interesting way. The screenplay doesn’t seem to have a straight focus, and different plot elements seem to come into play at the wrong time. And to cap it all off, it seems as if a corny romantic-ending was tacked on at the last minute.

I will give the leads credit, although they’ve shined brighter in other films. Kidman and Ferrell have actually both made better movies this year individually; Kidman was in tremendous form in The Interpreter and Ferrell had me thoroughly in stitches as the psychotic kids’ soccer coach in Kicking and Screaming. The two have a nice enough chemistry in this movie, but unfortunately it isn’t enough to save it.

The premise shows outstanding promise, but the follow through leaves a whole lot to be desired, as Bewitched finds itself far away from being one of the better film remakes for a television series.

Video ****

Sony doesn’t fail whatsoever with the handling of this glorious looking presentation. The anamorphic picture is lively from beginning to end, with sharp imaging and outstanding detail. The colors are also a big plus, as well, as they help the picture look nothing short of amazing.

Audio ***

The 5.1 mix does a nice enough job with the dialogue driven comedy. The highpoints include numerous selections on the soundtrack, as well as the sound effects helped in Samantha’s witchery. A good quality sounding disc.

Features ***1/2

Sony throws a good deal of magic into this Special Edition release. Included is a commentary track with director Nora Ephron, as well as a “Witch Vision” trivia track. Also featured are three behind the scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, and a lengthy trailer gallery.

Summary:

Although it had the proper ingredients for something special and rare, Bewitched falls short of quality due to an unfocused screenplay. The actors do what they can, but it isn’t enough to make this the superb laugh fest it had the ability to be.

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