2005-07-08 / Columnists


By Robert Snyder

In Hollywood’s relentless search through the recycling bin, it has dug up the old T.V. series, “Bewitched.” That’s the one with Elizabeth Montgomery as a nose-wiggling witch who doesn’t want to be, while her ultra-bland husband loves her anyway, magic and all.

Now the victim of a major overhaul, “Bewitched,” the movie, has a clever premise devised by writer/director Nora Ephron (“Sleepless in Seattle”) in which the “Bewitched” T.V. show is being resurrected and Montgomery’s character, Samantha, is being played by a real witch, Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman). Of course, none of the mortals know this... particularly, the egomaniacal actor Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell), who is cast as the previously nondescript husband, Darrin. Jack wants his character is be prominent in the new show. That’s why he hires unknown non-actress Isabel to play Samantha. As in the original, the real witchery causes the wackiness, with Jack/Darrin as the foil.

Making sense (comic or otherwise) out this convoluted mess is a testament to Ephron’s talent. In fact, it makes one wonder whether she’s a witch.

Still, her “Bewitched,” which is co-written by sister Nora Ephron, is a lot of fun. Ferrell carries much of the comedic load, helped by Michael Caine as Isabel’s warlock father and Shirley MacLaine as Iris, the actress portraying Samantha’s mother Endora.

Kidman is no comedian. She’s cute, appealing and manages to master the magical nose wiggle. However, Montgomery’s legacy is still intact as the real “Bewitched” witch.

The film is only 98 minutes long, but seems longer. It’s because the entire concept is such a stretch. The actors and moviemakers struggle in a Sisyphean effort to get the laughs going. At one point, Steve Carell (“The Daily Show”) does an imitation of  the late Paul Lynde doing Samantha’s Uncle Arthur, which goes on forever, eliciting few funny moments. (It’s doubtful that younger audience members will have any idea who Paul Lynde was.)

Hollywood should stop beating dead horses and really try to come up with something new. Even the Spielberg summer blockbuster, “War of the Worlds,” has been done before.

It seems that making original movies is a magic trick that the studio moguls have forgotten how to perform. Where’s Samantha when we need her?

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