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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Nora Ephron
scr Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron
with Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Michael Caine, Shirley MacLaine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristin Chenoweth, Heather Burns, Jim Turner, Stephen Colbert, David Alan Grier, Carole Shelley, Steve Carell
release US 24.Jun.05,
05/US Columbia 1h42
Witch's honour: Kidman, MacLaine and Ferrell
This big-screen romp based on the beloved 1960s TV series starts promisingly, with an ingenious premise, an engaging cast and a bouncy tone. Then the filmmakers abandon the set-up and subplots to turn it into an especially slushy Ephron rom-com.
Isabel (Kidman) is a witch trying to live a normal life, although it's not easy to give up magic. When vain actor Jack (Ferrell) notices her nose-wiggling talent, he plucks her from obscurity, Hollywood-style, and casts her as Samantha in his retooled Bewitched TV series, which is his last-ditch career rescue attempt. But Isabel's father (Caine) doubts she can be a witch pretending to be mortal playing a witch pretending to be mortal. Got that?
Ephron gets this clever premise in motion with energy and charm. Kidman is delightful--Isabel is breathy and too naive, but with a knowingly warped undercurrent and an ability to learn very quickly. Ferrell struggles with his schizophrenic character. He's good; it's not his fault the character is so badly plotted, wildly swinging from flailing has-been to sweet leading man. The fine supporting cast try to make their underwritten roles work, but the script continually leaves them hanging. Worst of all is the ill-conceived sequence with Uncle Arthur, which isn't helped by Carrell's appalling Paul Lynde impersonation.
The original series is such a time-honoured classic that we really want to like this film, and the sharply written opening third is thoroughly enjoyable. But it's like the solid script was simply shredded on page 50, replaced by a lazily rehashed version of You've Got Mail with a bit of witchcraft thrown in. None of the intriguing ideas has a pay-off, and the two appealing romances (between Caine and MacLaine and goofy agent Schwartzman and sparky neighbour Chenoweth) simply vanish. It's sad watching the film fall to pieces, especially since Kidman and Ferrell give it their all while the plot collapses and is replaced with romantic schmaltz. Even with likeable chemistry, their love story is the film's weakest element. And it kills off what should have been a sharp skewering of showbiz combined with knowing nostalgia.
|donna miller, 7138 s. bennett: "this movie stinks. if elizabeth montgomery were still alive, maybe she could have twitched her nose and made it disappear." (19.Oct.06)
© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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