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Published on June 21st, 2008 | by simeon

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Bewitched

Turning a classic television series into a feature film can be a risky proposition. While the built in audience of Baby Boomers and new fans of a show gained through reruns make remakes a potentially lucrative venture, the task of recasting classic characters and modernizing the story to today’s audiences is rife with hazards.

For example, for every remake that succeeds, such as The Adams Family, Starsky and Hutch, and The Brady Bunch, there are countless others that fail, like The Wild Wild West, Car 54 Where Are You and I-Spy.

Sadly the new film version of Bewitched falls into the latter category. It is so bad it begs the question as to why such talents like Nicole Kidman, Michael Caine, and Will Ferrell signed on.

The story centers on Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman), a young woman who is anxious to set off on her own and leave the family structure behind her. While this is not so uncommon for most people, Isabel is a witch and her decision to live as a mortal without her powers is of great consternation to her father (Michael Caine).

Isabel is convinced she can find a man, and can live in happiness and love with a mortal. She wants no part of the shallow and wandering eye that makes up their lifestyle. Convinced his daughter will never be able to live without her powers, her father chides her for her frequent and casual use of powers to do everything from find and furnish her home to paying for everyday needs.

At roughly the same time, fading actor Jack Wyatt is about to sign up to play the male lead in a new television version of the classic Bewitched television series. With the gigantic failure of his recent film, Jack is in need of a hit. Not wanting to take any attention away from his star turn, Jack insists that the producers cast a complete unknown in the role of Samantha. He does not want anyone infringing upon his spotlight.

A chance encounter with Isabel leads to her being cast by Jack in the new series. Isabel is taken by Jack and when she learns the role is that of a witch, she signs aboard despite some reservations.

Naturally Jack and Isabel will hit it off, and yes there will be issues, particularly when Jack’s shallow nature becomes clear to Isabel, and this is to say nothing of Isabel’s true identity which in and of itself is an issue.

What starts as a good premise with a solid cast quickly dissolves into a disjointed mess thanks to a paper thin plot that is rife with plot holes, non-sequitors, and unresolved moments. One such example is the character of Iris Smythson (Shirley Mac Laine), who plays Endora on the show. It is at first hinted at that she too is a witch and then made obvious. However there is no conclusion to this revelation. We see that she has a power and uses it, but we never really get the why she is there, how she chose to live as she does, and how her relationship with Isabel’s father is going to be altered by this.

Another problem the show has is that Ferell is reduced to running around, over-acting to get laughs. The situations go on way to long, and things that are at first amusing, become tedious after a while. One such scene has Ferell’s character appearing nude on a live television appearance. It is something that is used to generate laughs but there is no setup to the scene and it plays out as a desperate attempt to get laughs.

The only thing that works is the charm of Kidman who, as the quirky Isabel, is delightful, as is the supporting work of Caine and Steve Carell as Uncle Arthur. Sadly they are the only good things in a film that became so bad that many in the audience at my press screener were voicing their disdain when we left the film. Perhaps Samantha can twitch her nose and make this one vanish, as there is precious little to redeem it.

1 star out of 5


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