Isabel (Nicole Kidman) is a sweet, naïve witch who wants to give up witchcraft and lead a normal life. Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell) is a has-been actor who has just agreed to play Darrin, Samantha's mortal husband in a remake of the Bewitched television series. So intent is he on being the undisputed star, he insists on casting an unknown actress as the on screen witch, planning to give her no lines or screen time. He spies Isabel in a bookshop twitching her nose, and convinces her to take on the role. Shooting begins and Isabel starts a love/hate relationship with Jack, when she realizes that he only sees her as a commodity to make him look good. Isabel's father (Michael Caine), keeps a witch-ful eye over his daughter and finds himself attracted to Iris (Shirley MacLaine) who plays her screen mother, Endora.
Review by Louise Keller:
There's a sprinkling of magic in Bewitched, but Nora Ephron's script falls from the heights of lightness and frivolity in the final reel, when ideas become overworked and the occasional inspiration becomes stifled like a spell gone-wrong. It starts so well; the notion of presenting a story about a real-life witch endowed with good intentions of leading a normal human life, woven into the making of a television remake of Bewitched is full of promise. Colliding reality with fantasy and a dash of satire of the original well-loved TV series makes for an interesting slant to say the least. Add the seductive powers of Nicole Kidman, using her best Marilyn Monroe voice and the seemingly natural obnoxiousness of Will Ferrell as an ego-maniac actor desperate for centre stage, and all the opportunities are there for good escapism, some spontaneous laughs and a bit of fun.
I was surprised how easily I started to fall under the spell. Kidman is lovely and Ferrell makes disliking his character such a hoot. His Jack is a real loser, making ridiculous demands of his television producers, like having a make up team who wear matching jumpsuits, a pet leopard, a cake-a-day and three trailers to accommodate his oversize ego. The set up is delicious as Jack tells Isabel 'acting is better than normal, because you can pretend to be normal'. And Michael Caine is a treat as Isabel's real-witch father, who believes that working on the show Bewitched is 'an insult to our way of life.' Isabel is so sweet and trusting, believing that Jack wants to work her because he really likes her for herself, that she doesn't blink an eye when she has no lines or scenes of her own. 'It's less for you to remember,' the producers reassure her, when her lines are cut. But when Isabel overhears Jack telling Ritchie Jason (Schwartzman) that she is just a stooge intended to make him look good, her witches' blood starts to boil and things get juicy as she indulges in ear-pulling witchcraft for a dose of revenge.
Real and imaginary life become blurred as Isabel's Aunt Clara (Carole Shelley) drops down the chimney and miscasts a spell, making Jack cloyingly overkeen. Luckily Isabel has the power to effect a quick magical 'rewind', so history can be re-written. Ephron's greatest stroke of inspiration comes in the form of Shirley MacLaine as the tv-witch's indomitable mother Endora, who wears extravagant ostrich feathers, sequins and chiffon, and gives Michael Caine's Nigel more than a run for his money.
But the magic spirals to a dismal halt when the script falls into a deep, dark hole, and Jack and Isabel's blossoming relationship becomes totally unbelievable. To make matters worse, there's an unwelcome cameo from the tv character Uncle Albert (Steve Carell), whose presence doesn't work at all. The subsequent scenes with Ferrell are just plain dull. Just like in the tv show, it's only when Kidman's Isabel is on screen that the show is a success. Likewise, the film suffers badly from all scenes when Kidman isn't there to lift the ambiance. The soundtrack is terrific, by the way, with toe-tapping classics by artists such as Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong.
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CAST: Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristin Chenoweth, Heather Burns, Jim Turner, Stephen Colbert, Carole Shelley, Steve Carell, Amy Sedaris, Richard Kind
PRODUCER: Lucy Fisher, Penny Marshall, Douglas Wick
DIRECTOR: Nora Ephron
SCRIPT: Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron, Adam McKay
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Lindley
EDITOR: Tia Nolan, Stephen A. Rotter
MUSIC: George Fenton
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Neil Spisak
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 7, 2005
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.