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Bewitched

Reviewed By Todd LaPlace
Posted 10/17/05 09:21:02

"Only Meg Ryan can survive the crappy Ephron brand of cute."
1 stars (Sucks)

“Bewitched” was always a good show, due in large part to the amazing Elizabeth Montgomery. She brought the perfect blend of charm, personality and a little bit of magic to Samantha. No matter how talented Nicole Kidman is, she’ll never be as good as the woman that originally brought life to the character. Maybe if director/co-writer Nora Ephron had “reinvented” a film that wasn’t a carbon copy of the show, Kidman would have been free to do showcase her talents and the film version of “Bewitched” wouldn’t have been such a hackneyed flop.

Be forewarned that I’m about to reveal a joke in “Bewitched.” If you want to be surprised by this joke in the movie, skip the rest of this paragraph and proceed to the next one where I begin trashing the flick. If you wish to keep reading this paragraph, be prepared to be amused. While on the phone with his agent, Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell) is degrading the man for signing him up to star in the TV remake of title ’60s show. “I’m Darrin! They replaced Darrin on the original show and NO ONE NOTICED! I’M DARRIN! How did this happen?” I’m sorry, but you now know the only funny part of the whole movie. I’m sorry to spoil it, but the trailer did it first, so please, back off.

“Bewitched” is not “Bewitched.” That is to say, the film version is not a remake of the classic TV series. If it was, I might be more interested in seeing this film. Instead, “Bewitched” is a “reinvention” of the show by über-cutsy director Nora Ephron. Perhaps the whole problem is that co-writers Ephron and her sister Delia aren’t creative enough to reinvent anything. Instead of the film being about Samantha and Darrin, the film focuses on Isabel Bigalow (Nicole Kidman) and Jack, the two actors reprising those roles for the television remake. Taken seriously, the film could have been a reflexive, post-modern look at the entertainment industry. In Ephron’s hands, though, it becomes just another static romantic comedy.

Perhaps the choice that made the least amount of sense was to parallel the original show in the actors remaking it. In the ’60s version, Samantha (played by the late, great Elizabeth Montgomery) was a witch trying to escape her supernatural past and embrace a previously unknown mortality, which leads her to marry Darrin (played in different periods by Dick York and Dick Sargent), a perfectly average guy. The film takes that same pattern and applies to the actors rehashing those roles. Jack is your average movie star, trying to resurrect his shattered movie career — his last DVD sold an astounding zero copies — by turning a TV remake into a star project for him. Isabel has just moved to the Valley to search for a normal life, because, yes, she is a witch. How did the Ephrons ever come up with such an original twist?

Instead of a buttinsky mother, Isabel is forced to deal with her womanizing father, a completely miscast Michael Caine. Does no one notice the British father has an Australian daughter? Neither one seems the least bit interested in putting forth the effort to try and sound like relatives, and honestly, who can blame them? By the time Isabel’s clumsy spell-casting Aunt Clara shows up (or is it Samantha’s aunt?), you see the lack of energy in every aspect of this film. Clara arrives just in time to put a love spell on Jack, the first man that came along to treat Isabel as a normal person. It’s crazy to think Isabel would so quickly convince herself she’s truly in love, but I guess it’s got to work that fast if Nora’s going to work that crazy trite love montage into the middle of her film.

With how quickly Ferrell rose to fame after leaving a floundering “Saturday Night Live,” I guess it shouldn’t come as such a shock just how quickly he’s falling. Maybe it’s all the time he spent doing 5-minute sketches, but that’s about all that Ferrell seems to be good for. As Isabel hexes him with bad acting skills, Ferrell shows off his comic chops as he quickly changes crazy dialects. But outside of those quirky moments, the best Ferrell can achieve is unobtrusive. Not that anyone else can claim otherwise. Kidman, Caine, Shirley MacLaine (as Samantha’s on-screen mother, Endora) and Jason Schwartzman (as Jack’s smarmy agent) all just waft from scene to scene, looking more like their regretting their real life career choices than trying to make us believe their characters are regretting theirs.

At its best, “Bewitched” is cute, but stupid. At its worst (which is far more often), it is a trite piece of worthless garbage. I think my biggest problem with the movie is I’m glad it got made. All you’ve got to do is pull out the piece of film of “The Daily Show’s” Steve Carrell doing a bad Paul Lynde doing a bad Uncle Arthur impersonation, and this rough trend of recycling old TV shows might finally be dead.

If you’re Nora Ephron, you’ve got to be feeling slightly bad about yourself. You’ve been given Nicole Kidman, Michael Caine, Shirley MacLaine, Will Ferrell, Jason Schwartzman, a couple of “Daily Show” comedians and a whole host of talented supporting players, not to mention a script based on a mega-successful ’60s TV show, and you blow it so spectacularly that you don’t even recoup your budget in domestic grosses. What happened to you? You can’t deliver without Meg Ryan? Because I hear she’s looking for a movie to resurge her flatlined career. Just something to think about.

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