By Alan Scherstuhl
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Carolina Del Busto
By Amy Nicholson
By Simon Abrams
By Kevin Dilmore
By New Times
By Amy Nicholson
You'd almost feel sorry for Ferrell, if he weren't this close to wearing out his welcome, but one has little pity for the man carrying his own shovel into the cemetery. As Jack Wyatt, a self-absorbed jackass trying to resurrect a moribund career by playing Darrin in a Bewitched remake, Ferrell's playing Ferrell playing some variation of the characters he's done in Old School, The Ladies' Man, Anchorman, and the recent Kicking & Screaming. He's doing sketch comedy (the movie has enough story to fill about 12 minutes, give or take 11), this time with a brush as broad as Texas, and he will quickly discover how unforgiving the cinema's canvas is to small-screen actors who try too hard to fill up the blank spaces.
Nicole Kidman, as real-life witch Isabel cast to play make-believe witch Samantha opposite Jack in this remake-within-a-remake, fares no better, but for entirely different reasons. If the Ephrons make Ferrell look like a schmuck, they reduce Kidman to the role of total idiot, and, sadly, she obliges, dashing one more dollop of the audience's goodwill with yet another catastrophic offering of her own. Isabel, who apparently flew the short stick to school as a child, has no working concept of the real world, and she asks inane questions ("What's a dick?") as though she's a three-year-old just learning to speak in complete sentences. This, despite being hundreds of years old and being the daughter of Michael Caine's Nigel, a charismatic womanizer who was world-weary when the world was still made of molten lava. Isabel can do anything with the tug of an ear, except, apparently, act like a woman who's almost 40.
Bewitched, though, is such an epic mess that Kidman and Ferrell stood no chance; Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston and the myriad other actors once attached to the project should thank their agents and warlocks at having been spared such a fate. (This remake has gone through dozens of writers and directors for more than a decade; apparently Columbia Pictures execs gave up trying to make something good and barreled ahead with the dreck on hand.) The Ephrons miss even the easiest opportunities for laughs, choosing to go with none when even one would have sufficed. Why, for instance, cast Shirley MacLaine as an aging famous actress named Iris Smythson appearing as Endora in the remake, when it would have been far funnier for MacLaine to actually play herself? And why only hint at the possibility that Iris is a real witch, rather than unleash her upon an ensemble in need of enchanting? As it is, the Ephrons finally ditch Caine and MacLaine altogether, setting them up as a couple and then abandoning them just when the movie's most in need of the jolt only two pros can bring to such an amateur production.
To complain that a remake of Bewitched is pointless is, well, futile; it's certainly no more or less necessary than Sgt. Bilko or The Beverly Hillbillies or The Avengers, but when studios run out of ideas, there's always TV Land to rape and pillage in order to fill the coffers. But it's worse than just useless -- Bewitched is a waste of time, a waste of money (not yours, one hopes), and a waste of people like Amy Sedaris (who shows up in the last scene as neighbor Gladys Kravitz) and The Daily Show's Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, the former as a writer who does little more than squint and smirk, and the latter playing Paul Lynde playing Uncle Arthur in the only bearable and bubbly sequence the film can muster. A hex on everyone involved.
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