Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Nicole Kidman……….Isabel Bigelow/Samantha
Will Ferrell……….Jack Wyatt/Darren
Shirley MacLaine……….Iris Smythson/Endora
Michael Caine……….Nigel Bigelow
Kristin Chenoweth……….Maria Kelly
Stephen Colbert……….Stu Robison
David Alan Grier……….Jim Fields
Michael Badalucco……….Joey Props
Carole Shelley……….Aunt Clara
Steve Carell……….Uncle Arthur
Katie Finneran……….Sheila Wyatt
When it comes to comedians working today in Hollywood, there are plenty to choose from. There’s always been a surplus of people trying to be funny and very few who actually are. And without a doubt the funniest comedian working today is Will Ferrell. On of the few former members of Saturday Night Live to define himself as more than a niche actor outside of the not ready for prime time audience, Ferrell has established himself as the premier funnyman in an ever-increasing field.
But the one thing that has always accompanied his cinematic excursions has been several familiar faces. Steve Carrell, Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson all manage to have either made cameo appearances with the star of Elf or star alongside him in the same sort of manner that Rob Schneider does in Adam Sandler movies.
It’s not noticeable unless they’re absent, as some of Ferrell’s funniest scenes from Old School and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy involve some or all of his “Frat Pack” cohorts. When his friends are gone Ferrell has to rely on his comedic instincts to carry a movie, but if the source material isn’t great then there is only so much he can do before he gets overwhelmed. Bewitched has this sort of quality.
Ferrell stars as Jack Wyatt, a washed up movie star looking to revamp his career on a remake of the television show Bewitched. Looking to rebuild his reputation after his latest movie sold zero copies on DVD, Jack gets an unknown named Isabel (Nicole Kidman) to step into the role of Samantha. His intention is that no one overshadows him as he, not Samantha, would be the undisputed star of the show.
In an intriguing concept, Isabel actually is a witch. Looking for a life without her magic, Isabel comes to Earth to start a new life as a ‘normal’ person. Against the advice of her father Nigel (played by Michael Caine), Isabel falls into the egomania that is Jack’s career relaunch. He doesn’t want anyone or anything ruining it, using his clout to get her reduced to a small part and have the show focus on him. And the movie similarly focuses all of its’ energies on Ferrell, and both have the same result. The flatness of the show in the movie and the flatness of the actual movie itself are even beyond the powers of Will Ferrell.
As someone who is able to turn chicken droppings in to chicken salad with his comedic powers, Ferrell can’t rescue this movie from being an intriguing concept turned vapid romantic comedy. And much like Jack’s overbearing persona wears thin on his fellow cast members; Ferrell’s presence is just too much for the movie to handle.
We see Ferrell so much, so often, that the saturation point is reached quickly and the movie overflows with his presence. This isn’t a good thing as the source material he’s working with isn’t funny in the first place. With the amount of talent collected for the movie, it’s almost criminal how underused or out of place they are.
Caine and Kidman stand out the most in that category; Caine maintains his streak of good performances but the material he is given isn’t good enough for him to make any better than it turns out. For a guy who helped make such bad movies as Miss Congeniality enjoyable, Caine has no such luck turning the fortunes of this one around. His comic timing is wonderful in comparison to the overbearing presence of Ferrell, but that also is in part because he isn’t seen as much. It’s a welcome change to have someone other than Jack on screen to be funny. Caine has several quality one liners and gags, as he is quite golden when given enough time, but he isn’t on screen long to make a difference.
The big difference maker in this movie is Kidman. Her version of Isabel is a dumbed-down, country bumpkin with a broomstick. It doesn’t help that she doesn’t have a strong chemistry with Ferrell (the key for every romantic comedy’s success), but her character is also short-changed as well. She’s never allowed to be truly vulnerable, she just has bad things happen to her. It doesn’t garner sympathy; it just lets her blend into the scenery. Isabel is also much more of a spoiled brat than someone who uses her powers; she is vindictive and responds to slights in a much worse fashion than even comically would be necessary. She crosses the line from being a woman wronged to being overly vindictive; it ruins a lot of what could be sympathy for her. Its not Kidman’s fault, as she does a fine job for what she’s given, but her character is shown in such an unsympathetic light that the big clichÃƒÂ© finish doesn’t have the sort emotional resonance it needs to.