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Bewitched   C

Columbia Pictures

Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Nora Ephron
Writer: Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristin Chenoweth, Heather Burns, Jim Turner, Stephen Colbert, David Alan Grier, Steve Carell.

Review by Sean O'Connell

You won't need a magic wand to help you pinpoint the moment Nora Ephron's Bewitched tumbles from its broomstick and plunges into a bubbling cauldron of mediocrity. Almost an hour into this otherwise charming ruse, Isabel (Nicole Kidman) -- a real witch playing a television witch as part of a Bewitched update -- realizes what a mess she's made by casting potent spells and manipulating her co-star, egotistical A-list actor Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell). She attempts to set things right by reciting a reversal spell, and the movie actually rewinds over 20 minutes of footage to reset itself and start anew.

Why stop there? Why not just rewind all the way back to the beginning and pretend this movie never happened? Because as clever and entertaining as the first half is, there's nothing left in the tank after this lazy retreat gimmick to keep us interested.

As mentioned, Bewitched starts strong. The high-concept comedy delivers a movie paced like a sitcom about a one-time movie star who participates in the television remake of a classic show. Wrap your brain around that one. The backstage Hollywood setting gives Ferrell plenty of room to run, and his portrayal of a self-centered celeb opens the stage doors to sharp jabs at our celebrity-obsessed culture. When Isabel turns her powers against Jack, Bewitched briefly puts Ferrell's improv skills to the test in a scene set around a dinner table that delivers hearty laughs.

Bewitched could use several more inspired scenes such as that one, because the second half falls back on Ephron's typical couples-in-courtship mush. Kidman and Ferrell enchant each other, but the movie loses its edge when Will's character shelves his massive ego. Veteran scene-stealers Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine breeze through in forgettable roles, and Steve Carell surfaces in the final scenes but is given nothing to do.

Bewitched almost soars. For what it's worth, Ephron's effects team seamlessly weaves whimsy and magic around Isabel, and a few camera tricks jazz the otherwise processed proceedings. If only someone in the script department could wiggle their nose, we might have had a few more laughs to hang our pointed black caps on.

Review published 06.23.2005.

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