Directed by: Nora Ephron
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Michael Caine, Shirley MacLaine, Kristin Chenoweth, Carole Shelley
The best thing about Bewitched is that its cinematography is so plodding that, unlike Nicole Kidman's other movies where the camera is all over the place, you actually get to see her for more than a few dizzying split seconds at a time and can realize how exquisitely gorgeous she truly is.
The idea behind the movie is cute. A pair of overly creative Hollywood producers decides to recycle the Bewitched TV series. My, oh my, blessed be, they accidentally cast a real-life witch, Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman, The Interpreter), in the role of Samantha, which pop-culture icon Elizabeth Montgomery had transformed into sparkling perfection during the series' 1960s heyday.
Kidman plays Isabel, an adorably naive witchy-woman who is sick of dating wishy-washy warlocks and wants to fall in love with a trickless human. Well, trickless isn't the same as guileless, and alas, poor Isabel ends up falling for the worst kind of male human: an egocentric actor -- in this case, a has-been named Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell, Elf). Seeing Bigelow's traffic-stopping nose wiggle in a bookstore (actually it's not Kidman's nose that wiggles, it's her upper lip), Wyatt hoodwinks her into agreeing to play his TV witch/wife and then proceeds to do what he does best, which is hog the limelight. Bigelow gets mad, gets even, gets lip-locked -- fade out.
Director Nora Ephron's send-up of Tinseltown's sequel mania is funny for a few minutes, but the one-note joke pales quickly, and the end result is a boring thud that makes you scratch your head in befuddlement. Who made the potion that convinced Kidman to do this silly thing in the first place? Didn't she read the script (by Delia Ephron, Nora's sister), where it must have been painfully obvious that nothing very funny would be stirred up? And why would she star in a movie in which the guy -- and a dull guy at that -- gets all the physical comedy?
More disheartening to critics like me is the fact that while this is a woman-managed film, nothing particularly female-empowering ventures into even one minute of it. The Isabel character enters the story clueless, does some nose-wiggling and ear-tugging, then reverts to cluelessness and agrees to marry Wyatt -- even though the ink on his second set of divorce papers hasn't yet dried.
The filmmakers completely missed the broomstick in the one scene that might have made the movie rise above its earthbound ordinariness -- an all-too-brief bit where a few female witches gather to perform a spell (on Halloween, no less; oh pulleeze). But we never get to see the witches, hear their dreams-to-reality philosophy or get any insight as to what makes the practice of magick so attractive to a growing number of people, including quite a few in Asheville. Missed opportunities are not the way of witchcraft, nor are they a good way to make movies that satisfy audiences.
Michael Caine (Batman Begins) plays Samantha's libidinous father, Shirley MacLaine (TV's Salem Witch Trials is the prima donna TV actress who has a few tricks up her sleeve, and Carole Shelley (Labor Pains) is hilarious as a witch with short-term memory loss. Worthy of note -- and much bigger roles -- is tiny (4 feet 11 inches) Kristin Chenoweth (TV's Kristin), who plays Bigelow's giggly neighbor and uses her unique, chirpy magic to steal every scene she manages to wiggle into. Rated PG-13 for some language, including sex and drug references, and partial nudity.
-- reviewed by Marci Miller