-

Bewitched

Just how unstoppable is Will Ferrell these days? Consider this: He even managed to be laugh-out-loud funny in the recent Woody Allen comedy Melinda And Melinda. Having emerged from one laugh-free zone victorious, he now stumbles deliriously into an even bleaker and blander region of comedy-killing bad vibes: a film from You've Got Mail director Nora Ephron. This time, however, he's thoroughly beaten by the material, and so is a lot of distinguished company. Bewitched is a veritable all-star cavalcade, but if it lost every bad idea, miscast actor, wasted performance, and botched scene, nothing would be left but the end credits.

Bewitched stars Nicole Kidman as a giggly witch who wants nothing more than to leave magic behind and find an immature, flailing mess of a man to slavishly serve. She finds one in arrogant actor Will Ferrell, who immediately gets her cast as his co-star in a TV update of the eponymous '60s TV hit. Which makes Bewitched a real feature-film adaptation of a real '60s television show, with a plot about the fake revival of said show, starring an oblivious actor and a real witch. Did Ephron really need to resort to such a tortured premise just to deliver the same old lame jokes about narcissistic actors, sycophantic suits, and conniving agents, or to present pathetic, servile masochism as the height of swooning romance?

Bewitched piles miscalculation upon miscalculation, beginning by casting the iron-willed Kidman, one of film's gutsiest and most fearless actresses, as a regressive pre-feminist dumb-blonde doormat, a sort of mildly retarded amalgam of Marilyn Monroe, Renée Zellweger, and Meg Ryan. Who could have guessed that Nicole Kidman, of all people, would step into a lead role far less progressive and empowering than the '60s sitcom housewife role it's based on? Then again, Ephron also manages the feat of making legendary co-stars Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine seem positively embalmed. Steve Carell's uncanny, mildly amusing, but ultimately pointless Paul Lynde impersonation emerges as the film's comic highpoint largely by default.

Carell's role doesn't make much sense. He shows up late in the film, seemingly out of nowhere, playing Ferrell's hallucination of Lynde's character from the TV Bewitched. He minces about for a few minutes, teaches Ferrell an important life lesson, then leaves. The rest of the film is just as confused and pointless, but nowhere near as inexplicably amusing. A vacuous, insulting romantic comedy, toothless would-be Hollywood satire, pretzel of pointless postmodern wackiness, and soulless TV adaptation all rolled up into one style-free, harshly lit mess, Bewitched lurches in four directions simultaneously and just ends up falling on its face.

More Movie Review