Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online since 2004.
What's the big deal?
Bewitched is a romantic comedy fantasy film released in 2005 and is a re-imagining of the TV show of the same name created by Sol Saks. Written, co-produced and directed by Nora Ephron, the film depicts a fading movie star cast in a remake of the show Bewitched who unknowingly casts an actual witch opposite him and begins to fall for her. The film stars Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine and Jason Schwartzman with cameos from Kristin Chenoweth in her feature film debut, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell. The film was Ephron's penultimate film release and the last film she wrote with her younger sister Delia Ephron. The film was released to a hostile reception from critics and struggled to earn global earnings of $131 million, making the film a financial flop. It was also recognised by the Razzies with five nominations, winning one.
What's it about?
Self-obsessed Hollywood actor Jack Wyatt finds his film career on the skids but has hope after he is cast in the lead role of Darrin in a remake of the TV sitcom Bewitched. Determined to be the star of the show, Jack insists that an unknown actress is cast as Samantha so he is allowed the spotlight. However, casting proves difficult until Jack literally bumps into a young woman at a book store who immediately catches his eye. Isabel Bigelow has only recently moved to LA and is on the hunt for a job and is eventually persuaded by Jack to audition for the role.
However, Isabel has a secret - she is an actual witch who is trying to leave her magical past behind and live a normal life. Despite constants interruptions from her father Nigel, Isabel is determined to move on but finds leaving her magical powers behind harder than it looks. After she discovers Jack's motives in getting her cast, Isabel casts a hex on Jack to make him fall in love with her in a fit of vengeance. But things get complicated when Nigel falls for the veteran actress Iris Smythson who is cast as Samantha's mother, Endora and Jack's eventual reaction when he discovers Isabel's past...
What's it about?
In the mid Noughties, there were an alarming number of films released based on old TV shows like Starsky & Hutch, Serenity, Miami Vice and even the much-anticipated The Simpsons Movie. But without question, this is one of the worst. To its credit, it at least tries to introduce the concept in an interesting and meta way but this also works to undermine the thinness of the material to begin with. I also enjoyed the occasional flourishes of imagination that marked a character's introduction to a scene such as Caine emerging from the backlot of a set thanks to some discreet CG. But alas, such highlights are pretty meagre as the film is pretty much devoid of any real laughs, romantic feelings or chemistry of any sort.
The only cast members to emerge with any sort of credibility are veteran performers Caine and MacLaine who trade barbs and one-liners with as much enthusiasm as they can muster. I also liked Carell's brief but impressive appearance as Uncle Arthur who looks and feels authentic. But generally speaking, there really isn't much to recommend here. If you're looking for a bright and sunny but hugely inconsequential picture with nothing to say, it's probably either this or Mamma Mia!. Frankly, I look for much more in my film experience than these simple requirements.
- The house that Isabel rents in the film was chosen specifically by Nora Ephron because it belonged to friends of her parents and she often visited it when she was a child. Coincidentally, those friends were Larry Burns and his wife Sandra Gould who took over the role of Gladys Kravitz in the show after the death of original actor, Alice Pearce.
- The film was originally proposed in the early Nineties with Penny Marshall slated to direct it. Her plan was to have Meryl Streep cast as Samantha, Barry Humphries (as his alter ego Dame Edna Everage) as Endora while the role was Darrin was to be played both by Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld - referencing the fact that Darrin was recast halfway through the series.
- This was the first Nicole Kidman film that Kidman saw with her two youngest daughters Sunday and Faith. Due to their age, they were delighted to see their mother perform magic tricks in the film but ended up disappointed when they quickly realised the truth.
What's not to like?
For starters, Ferrell is horribly miscast opposite Kidman as the two generate less chemistry than oil and water. Ferrell works hard to try and generate some laughs from the dreadful script but can't muster more than a mild smirk. Kidman, while not playing the material for laughs, looks the part but can't quite convince us of her magical powers beyond twitching her nose. It feels as though neither star understood the brief behind Bewitched and the film feels more like a half-hearted tribute and less of an attempted revival. Maybe this was the mission but if so, I can't help but wonder what the point of all this was.
Despite the spark of inspiration behind it, the screenplay is just awful with not much memorable going on and little in the way of comedy or romance - which, if we're honest, are two important elements of a rom-com. I can think of few films that run for their entire duration and make zero impression on me whatsoever. The whole thing washes over you like a wave of hot air, barely ruffling your feathers before being forgotten forever. Given the talent involved, you'd expect some degree of competence in front and behind the camera but this is a cinematic dead zone. It's ill-thought-out, poorly performed, poorly written and poorly directed. That really is all there is to it, I'm afraid. Sorry.
Should I watch it?
Bewitched is more of a curse than anything else, failing to captivate viewers with a haphazard grasp of the material and by paying the barest minimum of fan service. The film wastes the talents of its cast by failing to be funny enough for a comedy or romantic enough to work as a love story. With Ferrell unable to work his magic with weak material, the film is just a waste of time for everyone involved. Even for rom-coms, which aren't the strongest films if I'm honest, this is a pretty weak effort.
Great For: escaping your memory, occupying space on your DVD shelf, the disc makes a good coaster or frisbee
Not So Great For: fans of the original show, fans of Will Ferrell, fans of romantic comedies, anyone wanting to watch a film
What else should I watch?
TV adaptations have a bit of a reputation about them, much like cinematic adaptations of video games. Whether they were essentially feature-length episodes with a bigger budget (Are You Being Served?) or a wholesale reimagining (Masters Of The Universe), they tend to be critically divisive or rejected by fans of the show in question. Oddly, the trend has never really gone away with recent movie adaptations of Fantasy Island (which reimagined the show as a supernatural horror), Downton Abbey, Baywatch and The Man From UNCLE. Forgive me but none of these are really reaching out to me.
Mind you, there are some shows that manage to break out from the small screen to find some measure of success on the big screen. The most obvious example is Star Trek which has seen a plethora of films follow in its wake, some of which are really good like The Wrath Of Khan and The Undiscovered Country. Tom Cruise is almost single-handedly responsible for keeping the Mission Impossible franchise going with the most recent entry Fallout released in 2018. And speaking of one man maintaining their momentum, Sacha Baron Cohen has somehow managed to produce four films for his TV show Da Ali G Show with his recent sequel to Borat, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm securing a couple of Oscar nominations this week.
Isabel Bigelow / Samantha
Jack Wyatt / Darrin Stephens
Iris Smythson / Endora
Nora & Delia Ephron*
Release Date (UK)
19th August, 2005
Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Worst Screen Couple (Kidman & Ferrell)
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Actor (Ferrell), Worst Director, Worst Screenplay & Worst Remake Or Sequel
© 2021 Benjamin Cox