Hex Crimes

Columbus Alive | June 23, 2005
Perhaps director Nora Ephron should be applauded for attempting to do something different than the expected, rote adaptation of an old television show, which is usually as simple as hiring a screenwriter to crap out a 90-minute-long TV episode, casting a couple of movie stars in the leads and updating the costumes.

But why, oh why, did that “something different” have to be something even more insipid and creatively bankrupt than your standard small-to-big-screen adaptation? And keep in mind, this is a genre that includes the likes of The Mod Squad, The Beverley Hillbillies, The Avengers, I Spy, Starsky & Hutch and The Brady Bunch. You have to work overtime to stand out as sucky in that field, but Ephron manages.

Bewitched, which she co-wrote with sister Delia Ephron, is a real film adaptation of a real show, the plot of which revolves around a fake TV show remaking the original, real TV show, starring the actor Will Ferrell as the actor playing Darren in the real remake’s fake remake and actress Nicole Kidman as a real witch hiding her supernatural powers who gets cast to play the character Samantha, who is also a witch hiding her powers. Got that?

Apparently instead of being content to just make a bad remake of a so-so TV show, the Ephrons decided to make their version of Adaptation by way of Practical Magic, and with the same irritating romantic comedy moments of their worst work (like You’ve Got Mail and Michael).

This bad-on-paper idea is even worse on screen, particularly because Kidman does look a bit like Elizabeth Montgomery—even if she plays her one-note character Isobel as somewhere between adorable and lobotomized—and the usually reliable Ferrell commits himself to flailing at the receiving end of some spells.

Shirley MacLaine is wasted as Endora (another real witch pretending to be an actress who’s playing a witch on TV). Ditto Michael Caine, playing Isobel’s warlock father.

Other characters from the TV series appear at random, like Carole Shelley as Aunt Clara and Steve Carell, who perfectly channels Paul Lynde to play Uncle Arthur. Neither of them fit into the narrative in any logical way, but then there’s nothing logical about the entire endeavor, unless the whole point was to make the worst film possible as some sort of twisted tribute to the original series, to make it seem utterly brilliant by comparison.

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