© 2005 Ray Wong
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristin Chenoweith, Heather Burns, Jim Turner, Steve Carell
Director: Nora Ephron
Writers: Delia Ephron, Nora Ephron, Adam McKay
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language, drug and sex references, partial nudity
Running time: 102 minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 7
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 6
Production – 7
Total Score – 6.1 out of 10
Isabel Bigelow (Kidman) is a real witch who wants to start over after strings of fruitless romance with warlords. She vows to live like a mortal and to never use magic to get what she wants, even though her father Nigel (Caine) doubts she’ll ever succeed.
Jack Wyatt (Ferrell) is a self-absorbed, newly-separated actor in need of a career makeover. He’s to star in a remake of BEWITCHED and he wants an unknown to play Samantha. One day, he discovers Isabel and these two people “with very low self-esteem” hit it off. He convinces Isabel to become his TV wife, not knowing that she is a real witch. Isabel is strangely drawn to Jack and agrees to work with him, in hopes to get to know him better. When Isabel realizes that she’s been used and lied to by Jack, she decides to get even… by using magic!
Kidman (THE INTERPRETER) is lovely and adorable as Isabel/Samantha. She totally nails the character of the naïve girl-witch who just wants a simple life and someone who loves her for who she is. This is a light, fluffy role, and Kidman shows great range (after coming off from something heavy like DOGVILLE and BIRTH). Besides, she looks just like Elizabeth Montgomery – it’s uncanny. Ferrell (MELINDA & MELINDA), on the other hand, doesn’t fair as well. He is a funny guy, and with the right material such as ELF, he is great. But here, Ferrell is not allowed to do much of his slapstick comedy, and he lacks the dramatic chops to pull off the deeper emotions that are required of the character. One could only speculate what Jim Carrey could have done (Ferrell took over when Carrey passed on the role). Ferrell and Kidman don’t have much magic together. either, and that is a tragic blow to the film.
MacLaine’s (CAROLINA) talent is totally wasted as Iris/Endora. She looks and acts the part, but she has nothing to do. I keep waiting for her to do something outrageous or adversarial, considering Iris is a real witch as well (the show will be so much funnier if there’s a big duel between Endora and Samantha). Caine (BATMAN BEGINS) has a much better role as Isabel’s philandering father. His scenes with Kidman are among the best in the film. The rest of the cast is reduced to cardboard cutouts, and they’re not very funny either. Carell (THE OFFICE) does a good imitation of Uncle Arthur, but his appearance comes too late and too brief to save the day.
I guess you know where this review is going. With the exception of Kidman and Caine, this film is nowhere near worthy of my $10. Ferrell is miscast here, and MacLaine is underused. Writer-director Ephron’s (HANGING UP) script lacks the magical enchantment of the TV series, and the chemistry between Samantha and Daren is absent. Granted, there are some genuinely funny moments (I laughed out loud during one scene with Nigel and a hot chick – Caine turns out to be the funniest guy in the film, not Ferrell), but they’re far and between. The rest of the story just drags on and on. Ephron can’t decide whether she wants to make a romantic comedy or a Hollywood satire. The result is a hodgepodge of missed opportunities.
As director, Ephron lacks the ability to hold the audience’s interest. The editing seems choppy at times. Ephron always writes better than she directs, but this time, her writing suffers as well. One yearns for the return of her sharply-written and heartfelt materials such as WHEN HARRY MET SALLY and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE. Unfortunately, she might need the help of a witch to make that happen again.