Directed by: Nora Ephron
Written by: Nora Ephron & Delia Ephron
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman
What would you do if you had the ability to obtain anything in your wildest dreams with the tug of your ear? Was your answer falling in love with Will Ferrell? No? Me neither, but Bewitched utilizes a witty concept to bring forth an actual witch into a show about a witch.
Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman) wants to give up her life as a witch and chooses the life of living as a mortal. Due to how she can wiggle her nose like the original Samantha in the TV series, Bewitched, she gets cast opposite of Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell). Gaining an affection for him, Isabel must manage her place as an actor in this show and when the use of her magical powers would be appropriate.
While flawed, Bewitched has some great charm to it, which mostly revolves around the script. The entire idea of remaking the show Bewitched while unknowingly casting someone who’s actually a witch is ingenious in a way and Nora Ephron ensures that she chews up this idea for as far as it can go. From the moments of misunderstanding where Isabel believes they’re actually talking about her as a witch when they’re really speaking of the character. It occurs best in the improvisational moment where Isabel and Jack go on a tangent about what it’s like to be a witch. I adore Ephron’s writing and only she could put together such a witty script, but it does fall apart a bit by the end structurally.
The central conflict of the film revolves around Isabel trying to live like a mortal, which evidently becomes difficult for her. She can barely even hook up her cable properly. Her relationship with Jack becomes a bit of a push and pull, as she yearns for someone who needs her, and Jack goes back and forth between being a nice guy and a total jackass. Isabel swoons at the idea of seeing his sweat because she has such an affection for him. In this attempt, she gets tempted many times to utilize her magical abilities to change things in her favor, which she learns will not make things real. It makes for a good idea and lesson to be learned, but by the time we get to the third act, the film loses sight of that idea. Especially in the way the film concludes, many of the decisions made by the characters fail to make sense.
I previously watched Bewitched when I was much younger and rewatching it for this review reminded me of how much I quoted this film growing up. Mostly it came from Jack Wyatt’s monologues about his dog, which was manipulated by Isabel. Quotes like “Oh my god, where’s my dog? Totally.” The number of times I said that as a kid is probably shameful, but it still made me chuckle in the way Will Ferrell plays out the scene. Additionally, many of the fish out of water moments land with Isabel trying to navigate things humans do every day. That bit of comedy always gets a laugh or two from me, but it’s much better in this film considering it’s a Nora Ephron project.
The cast for the film is quite delightful, even once you get past Kidman and Ferrell. Rounding out the cast is Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzmann, and even smaller roles for Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. Caine, in particular, portrays Isabel’s father and he’s quite the charmer in this role as a lady’s man. He’s someone I have mostly seen as the pure father figure type in roles, but seeing him take on a character with a lady’s man personality provided a different look into the greatness of this actor. His moments of utilizing his magic to appear and pester Isabel look cheesy, but I enjoyed them very much.
Bewitched doesn’t get everything right but it has a good heart in trying to play with a story mimicking the show they’re actually creating. It has its witty moments mixed with the ones that make no narrative sense. If you mix them around enough you’ll get something worth drinking. Truly a fun time that blends love and magic in a way that shows all of the benefits of the latter and how it can negatively impact the former.