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IN SHORT: Non stop funny. Really. [Rated PG-13 for some language, including sex and drug references, and partial nudity. 102 minutes]
Those waiting to see a big screen version of Samantha and Darren won't. Sort of. Those assuming that this Bewitched is yet unnecessary knock off of a beloved teevee show greatly underestimate Nora Ephron. We don't underestimate Ms. Ephron, though we did think remaking teevee's Bewitched as a big screen vehicle was going to be a painful sit. It may have been, if this Bewitched was only that. It's not. Ephron's Bewitched both honors its origins and tames the antics of ex-SNL lunatic Will Ferrell, who plays an A-list film star Jack Wyatt, star of a run of box office bombs. As many actors will do to refresh their career, Wyatt signs to do a remake of the Bewitched television show, which puts us slightly ahead of the story.
Bewitched is a tale of one Isabel Bigalow (Nicole Kidman), come to LA to make it in the world on her own. She's already taken care of the basics of house and car but is now seeking True Direction. She finds a book called "What Should I Do With My Life?" and wrinkles her nose as she dives in, right in the store. That twitch gets noticed by Jack Wyatt and, since the Samantha in "his" remake of Bewitched is just fluff -- the show, after all, was always only about Darren, as Jack's agent slash producer Richie (Jason Schwartzman) is quick to affirm -- this Elizabeth Montgomery look alike will do just fine.
What Jack doesn't know is that Isabel really is a witch, although one who prefers to generate her magic in a manner more befitting the old Carol Burnett show. She tugs on an earlobe. Twitches will come later, friends. And so we're off to the studio, where Jim Fields (David Alan Grier) is directing and Iris, an actress playing Endora (Shirley MacLaine) is quick to bed Isabel's dad Nigel Bigelow (Michael Caine).
Well, of course daddy is a witch. Warlock. Whatever. He's the foil of the story, determined to get his daughter to see the mortal world for the despicable lowbrow place it really is. A place fit only for a mature warlock to, uh, "get some". Actually, in Nigel's case, he gets quite a lot, including the aforementioned actress playing "Endora". Whether or not Maclaine's character really is a witch is dangled and never followed up on. That's a minor point so assume only those clearly identified as such have the magic touch and get over with it.
That means the supporting witch role falls to one Aunt Clara (Carole Shelly) whom Isabel asks for help in casting a spell which will get Jack Wyatt to take her seriously as part of the show. Helped out by next door neighbor Maria Kelly (Kristin Chenoworth), the spell causes Jack to fall, hard, for Isabel, and . . . heck, we're not sure if we even got this part of the story right. Jack's got a gold digging wife (Katie Finnerman) with whom he was fighting out a nasty divorce as the film unreels and, the heck with it, we were laughing too hard to take legible notes.
Which is why we can tell you that Stephen Colbert is part of this film but we're damned if we can remember why.
Needless to say, things spin out of control in a major way. When that happens, only Uncle Arthur (Steve Carrell) can save the day. Carrell tries hard to deliver his best Paul Lynde imitation but it, unfortunately, falls short. Long time readers by this point should have noticed that we're making too many references to the Source Material -- which is a cardinal no-no in our book for any film to do. We shouldn't do it either but, heck, we doubt there is an American around that hasn't seen the original in one way or another. The one or two that may have missed it won't have any trouble following the action and characters. That's one of the joys of the script by the Nora and Delia Ephron, which makes sure that all the important touchstones of the original make their way into the final product.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Bewitched, he would have paid . . .
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