More noise than signal


This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

Hmm. Not technically a remake, but you have to wonder exactly why it was decided to exhume Bewitched for the jump to the big screen. Setting Soderbergh-esque levels of self reference, waned movie star Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell) attempts to raise his profile by starring as Derrin in a retooled remake of ye olde witchy telly thingy. Wanting to wallow in the limelight of the piece and egged on by his slightly creepy, odious agent (aren’t they all?) Ritchie (Jason Schwartzman) Jack demands an unknown be selected as the female lead Samantha.

Enter Isobel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman), who is selected essentially on the basis of her ability to perform the trademark nasal twitch. Why would she be so good at this, I hear you ask with mild disinterest? Why because she’s an honest to goodness witch, although one who has recently sworn off the whole black magic thing to her father Nigel (Michael Caine) for some reason too banal to remember. Oooh, feel the self referential irony.

From which point it goes into your usual common or garden rom-com schtick, the frighteningly twee Isobel falling for the over the top, egomaniacal stylings of Jack for some reason. The odd spellcasting aside, there’s little going on here that you’ve not seen umpteen times before, begging the questions why was this made and why should you invest any time or effort in it?

The first one I’ve already proclaimed ignorance of, the second I’ve no clear answer for. Taking a cursory butcher’s at the cast list this ought to have been the funniest thing since sliced bread, assuming you’re the sort of oddball who finds sliced bread funny. Will Ferrell doesn’t know how not to be funny, Schwartzman has his fair share of comedies behind him, Caine can turn his hand to practically anything, Kidman can be lightly skipped over and you’ve got excellent Daily Show contributors Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell as backup. What could go wrong?, I hear you ask, and boy am I getting sick of your questions. Seriously, what’s up with you today?

Nothing really does go wrong, to be frank. It’s just that nothing particularly goes right either. Ferrell goes through his usual gurning routine raising chuckles as ever, but he tends to work best (as would everyone) when this is going on top of something fundamentally amusing rather than the only amusing thing going on. Everyone else flounders around putting a brave face on matters, but it’s quite clear that there’s nothing for them to work with.

Kidman, who’s charms we remain mostly agnostic towards round these here parts, suffers from overexposure and a near complete lack of character depth. She’s a witch. A nice witch. A really nice witch, in fact a cloyingly twee witch that wouldn’t have been out of place amongst her own Stepford Wives. Ferrell at least gets to develop his character, even if it is along entirely predictable lines, while Kidman doesn’t even get to go from being a witch to not being a witch, despite her stated intentions.

Proceedings just sort of shamble along really, held together by force of personality more than any distinct effort on writer / director Nora Ephron’s part. There’s not really any one particular aspect that’s bad enough to become tremendously riled at, but if the only thing it has going for it comes from Will Ferrell’s clowning why should anyone want to see this compared to a Ferrell outing that’s actually amusing, ala Anchorman? Lord knows how disastrous it might have been had the first choice of lead Jim Carrey not been forced out due to scheduling clashes.

There’s not an awful lot to say about Bewitched, because it doesn’t say an awful lot itself. Pitched squarely at being a mild diversion for ninety minutes, it more or less succeeds but there’s nary a compelling argument for choosing this over any other film currently doing the rounds, and given that this is perhaps the worst clutch of summer releases in a decade (Stealth, Dukes of Hazzard, xXx 2, The Island, Fantastic Four, I’ll stop there before I get too depressed at all those hours I’ll never get back) the fact that it doesn’t even stand out amongst them is somewhat worrying.