But the problem is not the actress's performances. Sheadded bite and ironic melodiousness to last year's slapdash, self-destructing"TheStepford Wives," and she keeps the newself-aware, big-screen version of "Bewitched" afloat with herdelightful spark of perky naivete as a witch trying to live a mortal life.She has a deftly silly sense of comedic balance and timing.
The problem is, when she's just looking to have some funbetween dramatic roles, the girl can't pick a script.
Like "The Stepford Wives," this new comedy isa mess at the screenplay level. It changes mood, direction and (like "Wives")the rules of its own reality in every other scene. The plot is sloppy andstructurally unsound. Fictional characters from the original "Bewitched"come to life in single scenes for no explored reason ("The Daily Show's"Steve Carell is bloody awful as queeny Uncle Arthur) -- and this happenseven though the bulk of the meta-cinema plot takes place in real-worldHollywood. You see, Kidman plays an actual witch who becomes an actressand gets cast as TV sorceress Samantha Stevens in a network remake of thetitular 1960s sitcom.
Will Ferrell, doing a slight variation on his stock vulnerablychildish egomaniac routine, plays a vulnerably childish egomaniac moviestar whose career is in a tailspin, so he takes the role of Darren, Samantha'sflabbergasted mortal husband, but demands that the new show be retooledto revolve around him. He's well cast, but no less obnoxious than usual.
Through a series of unlikely misunderstandings, Kidmanfalls for this superficial idiot, uses her powers to humble him, goes ona peppy-pop-song date montage, then reverses her curses because she realizesthat love must come from within...blah, blah, blah.
Writer-director Nora Ephron ("Sleepless in Seattle,""You've Got Mail") and her co-writer sister Deliaseem to view Kidman's powers as a metaphor for women who think they canfix men and break them of bad habits. But they do nothing to dispel thismyth. "Bewitched" has the same insulting message as most triteromantic comedies: Lower your standards, girls, because accepting apologiesfor preventable bad behavior is as close as you'll ever get to having agood man.
"Bewitched" has many good laughs as Kidman'snormality-seeking, endearingly wide-eyed innocent (she gets a thrill outof making microwave popcorn instead of conjuring it up with a finger snap)navigates the sycophantic- and shark-infested seas of mortal Hollywood.Michael Caine, Kristin Chenoweth (from the Broadway hit "Wicked")and Shirley Maclaine garner some laughs as Kidman's interfering father,hyperactively perky next-door neighbor and a secretly witchy diva caston the show as Endora, Samantha's interfering mother.
But the movie switches gears so many times that it severelyshorthands several character arcs. One minute Ferrell is running away fromKidman, freaked out by discovering she's a real witch. The next, he's cryinginto a pillow about how much he misses her, even though there's nothingpreventing him from driving to her house to patch things up.
Ephron was clearly more interested in forming a plot aroundpre-determined jokes than she was in finding the humor in a good story,and her out-of-whack priorities are what hex "Bewitched."
Run time: 102 mins
In Theaters: Friday 24th June 2005
Box Office USA: $62.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $63.3M
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 25%
Fresh: 46 Rotten: 139
IMDB: 4.8 / 10
Director: Nora Ephron
Starring: Nicole Kidman as Isabel Bigelow, Will Ferrell as Jack Wyatt, Shirley MacLaine as Iris Smythson / Endora, Michael Caine as Nigel Bigelow, Jason Schwartzman as Ritchie, Kristin Chenoweth as Maria Kelly, Heather Burns as Nina, Jim Turner as Larry, Stephen Colbert as Stu Robison, David Alan Grier as Jim Fields, Michael Badalucco as Joey Props, Carole Shelley as Aunt Clara, Steve Carell as Uncle Arthur, Katie Finneran as Sheila Wyatt, James Lipton as Himself, Brittany Krall as Auditioning Actress
Also starring: Amy Sedaris
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