OK, I admit I was looking forward to a film interpretation of one of my favorite TV shows, especially with such a strong cast to back it up. But alas, although not completely disappointing, this witchy redo doesn't quite meet expectations.
At least Bewitched has the smarts to reinvent itself, contemporizing rather than going for a straight remake. First, we meet Isabel (Nicole Kidman), a naïve, good-natured witch who wants to give up her supernatural powers to lead a ''normal'' life--much to the chagrin of her warlock father, Nigel (Michael Caine). He doesn't believe she can do it. Neither do we. Then, on the other side of town, we meet Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell), a nearly washed-up actor who's done one too many bad films. To get back on track, he decides to do an updated version of the beloved 1960s sitcom Bewitched. As the mere-mortal Darrin, Wyatt would be the star of the show, not the actress cast as Samantha. In order for that to happen, a nobody must play the witch. Lo and behold, Jack runs into Isabel, who can manipulate her dainty nose in just the right wriggle. He persuades her to take the part, while she sees Jack as the quintessential mortal man with whom she can settle down and lead the normal life she so desires. Think it'll work out? (Cue the Bewitched theme song).
We all know Kidman can play complicated and romantic, and Ferrell can do comedy. But in Bewitched, they each try to do something beyond those skill sets. Unfortunately, they can't quite pull it off. Kidman, of course, is a consummate actress. She can take on just about any character and make it her own, including the slightly ditzy, eternally cute Isabel. And so she taps into her inner witch once again (like she did in Practical Magic). But trying to remake comedies (like The Stepford Wives), especially something as balls-out as Bewitched, doesn't really suit the Oscar winner all that well. And in Ferrell's case, he hilariously handles all of Bewitched's improvisational, comedic moments, as expected. But watching him try to be a romantic leading man is a bit cringe-worthy. I mean, if you can make smooching on Nicole Kidman look uncomfortable, you certainly aren't doing the job. As far as the rest of the cast, everyone is pretty much wasted in one form or another. Caine, as Isabel's debonair roué of a father, and Shirley MacLaine, as the diva-esque actress who plays Bewitched's wonderful Endora, have a couple of bright moments but don't get nearly enough to do. The same goes for Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore), as Jack's unctuous agent, and Kristin Chenoweth (from the Broadway musical Wicked), as Isabel's spirited neighbor. Even Steve Carrell (TV's The Office), as the irascible Uncle Arthur, can't offer the right spontaneity. What a shame.
One of Bewitched's saving graces, however, is writer-director Nora Ephron. She knows romantic comedies, having helmed such hits as Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, as well as writing the quintessential romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally . Bewitched is right up her alley, and she fluffs it up like a pro. Yet, overall, the film is just too darn silly for its own good. Maybe Bewitched suffers from the whole TV-turned-film phenomena, in general. The idea of taking such classic TV favorites and adapting them into feature films continues to prove there isn't a shred of originality left in the studio system. But sometimes the concept works (Starsky & Hutch is one that comes to mind). Fans, like me, are curious as to how filmmakers will rework the material and are especially interested in who they decide to cast to play those beloved icons. We end up giving each one of these big-screen treatment iterations a chance--and are usually disappointed. Bewitched is no exception. Besides being only mildly entertaining to diehard fans, Bewitched's inside jokes will most likely go over the heads of those who can't tell Samantha, Darrin, Endora, Aunt Clara, Uncle Arthur or Mrs. Kravitz from the characters on I Dream of Jeannie. Probably best just to own the sitcom's DVD collection instead.
Watching Nicole Kidman fly around on a broom is one thing, but if you're looking for a little renewed magic, Bewitched unfortunately isn't it.