Back Comments (4) Share:
Facebook Button
The phenomenally successful sitcom Bewitched was first shown in 1964, running for eight years and clocking up a staggering two hundred and fifty four episodes. The show concerned the trials and tribulations of a witch named Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) and her mortal husband Darrin (Dick York, then Dick Sargent).

In their never-ending search for ideas, new or otherwise, Hollywood producers decided that the forty year old sitcom was ideal fodder for one of their trusty movie spin-offs. They dutifully signed up Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell as the leads, but fans were surprised when it became clear that there was slightly more to this adaptation than had been initially hinted…

Bewitched
Movie
Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman) is a supposedly normal woman who is plucked from obscurity to play Samantha in a television remake of Bewitched. This casting decision is orchestrated by the self-appointed star of the show, Jack Wyatt, who will play Darrin (and is, in turn, played by Will Ferrell). Jack is so conceited that he’s determined to overshadow Isabel and turn Darrin into the main character. Unfortunately, he didn’t bank on falling in love with his co-star…or discovering that Isabel is a witch while off-screen too.

No one could ever accuse director Nora Ephron of not being ambitious as the multi-layered plot of Bewitched makes for one of the most complex TV spin-offs in quite some time. It’s a shame that this doesn’t automatically guarantee a good movie as the film is, for the most part, a badly structured mess.  

The appeal of the original show relied mostly on Samantha’s conjuring tricks but here the laughs are instead focused on actors, writers and TV production. Admittedly, due to Samantha’s insistence on repressing her magic and playing the ‘good little house-wife’, the sitcom feels a little dated now but it is, however, a lot more enjoyable than this muddled incarnation.

On closer inspection, the movie’s ‘TV show within a film’ scenario feels far too clever for its own good. This is evident towards the finale of the film when the writers seem to get bored off this angle and rely on characters from the TV show ‘crossing over’ to assist our protagonists (cue a painfully unfunny cameo by Steve Carrell as Uncle Arthur).

Bewitched
Arguably the worst moment in the film's runtime is when we’re forced to sit through a sequence of events, only for Isabel to ‘re-wind’ them, and do things differently. This horrendous case of deus ex machina is the point at which most film fans will be walking away in disbelief.  

The presence of Kidman, Ferrell and, as Isabel's father Nigel, Michael Caine, shows some initial promise, but not one of them can salvage things here. Kidman sleepwalks through her role while Caine looks faintly bored throughout. Ferrell, meanwhile, must be wondering where things went wrong. He showed enormous potential in Old School and Elf, but it is potential that has been largely unrealised after far too many mediocre roles. The Jack Wyatt character is too thinly written to allow any kind of development.  

It’s actually hard to work out to whom this film is supposed to appeal. Fans of the original show will probably be a little offended by the heavy-handed parodies of it (consisting of raucous laughter and exaggerated prat-falls), while those who have not seen the sitcom will be alienated by the countless fan-boy references.

Bewitched is one of those movies where you have to wonder what everyone involved was thinking; the actors, the writers, the director, and maybe even yourself, should you ever decide to sit down to watch it. Just pray that no-one gets any stupid ideas regarding I Dream of Jeannie.

Bewitched
Video
Washed-out, lifeless visuals do Bewitched few favours and the colour representation leaves a lot to be desired. Scenes set at night suffer from a lack of clarity as characters dressed in dark costumes merge into the scenery. A surprising amount of grain is also evident throughout the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. It's all very disappointing considering the film was made less than twelve months ago.

Audio
Your rear-speakers will be treated to a holiday with the arrival of this disc, as the 5.1 surround sound carries the usual mix for a dialogue-heavy comedy. A lack of distortion is a plus point, as is the clear dialogue and the strong balance between this and the unimaginative soundtrack.

Extras
Nora Ephron begins her commentary by querying why anyone would wish to do a ‘straight’ spin-off from a movie, declaring that the original actors of Bewitched were irreplaceable (we’ll ignore the fact that several of the characters were recast). This opinion apparently prompted her to make 2005's Bewitched decidedly more post-modern with the Hollywood angle. It’s interesting listening to her theories, especially when one considers the movie’s relatively poor performance at the box office.

Did you know Will Ferrell was voted ‘best personality’ while at high school? And more to the point, did you want to know? The trivia track, which is full of lots more useless nuggets of information, is on hand to distract you from the mediocre movie.

Test your knowledge with the Bewitched Trivia Game! Curiously, the quiz is purely focused on the Television show rather than the movie featured on this disc. However, since few people will watch this movie more than once, this may be for the best.

Bewitched
Similarly, the very-short ‘Why I Loved Bewitched’ featurette is concentrated on the television show and involves the movie’s cast and crew giving their opinions on the sitcom. This plays more like an advert for the season one DVD than an in-depth documentary as the frequent clips are taken solely from the very early episodes.

"It's not Bewitched!" says Nora Ephron at the beginning of the perfunctory making-of doc. Never have truer words been spoken and, as the producers agree that they didn't want to re-tell the original Bewitched story, you have to wonder why this film was made at all. Either way, this featurette isn't too bad; clocking in at the twenty-five minute mark and incorporating interviews with all of the key personnel.

An opportunity for some mutual back-slapping arrives in the form of some star profiles where members of the cast are discussed by their peers. Not in much detail, it has to be said.

There’re a few deleted scenes to be found on the disc. Nothing too spectacular, although a scene set in a writer’s conference is particularly noteworthy. To parody bad writers isn’t a bad idea, but to parody it with bad-writing certainly is.

Finally, we have some trailers for Open Season, Zathura, Stuart Little 3, and, predictably, the first season of Bewitched.

Bewitched
Overall
Bewitched met a rough reception when it was released in cinemas and a transition to DVD will not change any opinions. In terms of audio it’s fine, but the sub-par video and dull extras make this distinctly ‘missable’. If you really have to have Bewitched on DVD, make sure it’s the one starring Elizabeth Montgomery.


Links: