|For all the fairy dust and vivacious energy present in Bewitched, it would seem that the movie would have no choice but to be a successful summer popcorn diversion whose characters would give you the warm fuzzies and whose ending would make you just a bit happier for the day. And every once in a while, the movie succeeds on that level, through the antics of various supporting cast members and the bright and sunny appeal of the production design.|
In fact, most facets of this film are a shiny success, with a substantial portion of the budget finding itself devoted to star Nicole Kidman's sweater collection (her character must sport at least fifty different yellow, pink, and fuzzy beasts throughout the film). But all the well sewn items of clothing on the planet can't cover the rather large hole left between the two lead stars and the lack of believable chemistry. A romantic comedy's beating heart is its lead duo and all efforts surrounding the romantic couple's journey are in vain if the mister and misses don't click.
Nicole Kidman, playing "Isabel Bigelow," the 2005 incarnation of the 1960's "Samantha," and Will Farrell, playing "Jack Wyatt," the updated version of "Darren," have each convinced audiences of their theatrical abilities in multiple feature films. It's just that when they're on the screen with one another, it's as if each actor is in his or her own world. It's almost as if these two actors were cast together simply because the looked good as Darren and Samantha instead of feeling good together.
With all the successes in other elements of the film, it's a shame for the cast and crew of Bewitched that the lead characters each seem so right for their roles yet so wrong for each other (the blame shouldn't rest entirely on Kidman and Farrell's shoulders though since they can't seem to help their lack of natural chemistry). When Isabel and Jack find themselves involved in some romantic outing or another, the unsuitability of the actors' casting turns each scene they have together into an affair that's twice as long as it needs to be.
So in lieu of enjoying what the lead stars don't have together, many viewers might find themselves perking up whenever Shirley MacLaine (playing an actress named "Iris") and/or Michael Caine (playing Kidman's father, "Nigel") are on the screen. Together, apart, and interacting with absolutely anyone, these two actors are probably ninety percent of the reason one would want to see this film to its conclusion, despite the fact they're not on the screen that often. In fact, their romance, an interesting sub-plot of the film, is drop kicked into the realm of the unfinished when the film ends without a clear end or resolution to their relationship.
As are the potential relationships and sub-plots introduced over the course of the film. There are several famous faces that populate this film and far too often they're thrust into an interesting sub-plot that's just drop-kicked into oblivion in favor of making sure Darren and Samantha garner enough screen time. What happens between flighty neighbor "Maria Kelley" (Kristin Chenoweth) and Jack Wyatt's spacey manager "Ritchie" (Jason Schwartzman)? Why does Michael Badalucco (playing an on-set prop man) drop off the face of the film around the middle of the second act? And why on earth was David Alan Grier cast in the thankless and nearly benign role of a television director?
So many questions concerning the comings and goings of the supporting cast of characters and absolutely nothing is wrapped up or concluded by the end of the film save the relationship between Nicole Kidman and Will Farrell. Which just happens to be a rather unsatisfying relationship that viewers might have a difficult time "sitting through." And a film like this, a summer diversion that wraps up in a tidy hour and a half (sans credits - with the closing credits the film is still a very respectable 98 minutes), isn't something that should force people to glance at their watches.
Writer and director Nora Ephron, responsible for the hilarious When Harry Met Sally and You've Got Mail will simply have to put this film into the column of her lesser efforts. It's probably unfair to label the film as completely unredeemable since fans of the actors will certainly appreciate the efforts in performance, but whatever magic Ephron and her sister, Delia, accomplished in their writing has been nearly obliterated by Nicole Kidman and Will Farrell's inability to connect as a romantic couple on screen.
And what's further the shame is the fact that the film is blessed with such a vivid production design by Neil Spisak? Editors Tia Nolan and Stephen Rotter will see their efforts wasted on a romantic comedy whose most basic element, the element of romance, is never something believable. And George Fenton's lively score is wasted on a romance that's missing its magic. Why should such a well-made film land so dully on the senses? Bewitched stands as a firm example why the chemistry between actors is not wholly determined on their looks and might actually have something to do with how well they interact on screen with on another.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.