Bewitched, Bewildered, Bothered

Bedazzled is sort of a big "eh." Is it worth the $8 evening show? Clearly not. Is it worth the $4.50 matinee? Maybe, but probably not. If you're floating in a sensory deprivation tank, it happens to be playing directly in front of you, and your eyes are three-quarters closed, is it worth the effort it would take to open them and improve your view? Sure, but only if you've still got a while to go in there.

The basic plot-type rundown on the Harold Ramis comedy Bedazzled is that it's about a lonely Brendan Fraser-type guy who's got the hots for one of his coworkers. He sells his soul to an Elizabeth Hurley-type devil in exchange for seven wishes, with an eye toward getting the girl. He uses his wishes to change himself in ways to make himself more appealing to the girl, being defeated by Satan at every turn, until he learns that he doesn't have to change himself to find love. For all its computer animation and dot-com references, Bedazzled feels fairly musty; it's the sort that you might take your grandmother to, if it weren't for the penis-size jokes and Elizabeth Hurley all dolled up like a two-dollar stripper.

Which brings me to my next point: Elizabeth Hurley is a fairly well-known actress, and while not famous for her talent, after Austin Powers she could choose to make money wearing jeans and a T-shirt. What is she doing in this movie, with each costume putting progressively more of her upper torso on display (a trend which culminates in one memorable bikini which allows you to see parts of all four sides of her breasts, while covering the important, R-rated swath in the middle)? I mean, wearing these outfits is a shade less deameaning than, say, doing carnival midget porn, but then carnival midget porn is probably going to be seen by a smaller audience than this film is. If she wants to typecast herself as eye candy, she'd better be careful: while on 35 in human years, she is already in her late forties in anorexic years. I can only assume that she was attracted by the same thing that convinced Max von Sydow to play Leland Gaunt in Needful Things, or Shirley MacLane to play Aurora Winters in Terms of Endearment: the chance to create a character of pure evil. Unfortunately, character isn't something this film is very good at. Fraser and Hurley come on mugging like criminals, caricaturing their parts instead of playing them.


The great thing, historically, about comedies from Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Caddyshack) is that they keep mutating on you. Just when you think he's maxed out the comedic potential inherent in a setpiece, he'll change the rules just enough to allow the comedy to flourish on new ground (e.g. Bill Murray's wild progression from hedonism to suicide to philanthropy in Groundhog Day). Ramis' mistake with Bedazzled is that he tips his hand to the audience in the set-up of the movie. Because of the seven-wish structure of the film, you always know exactly where the next change of direction is going to come from. The changes Ramis does come up with here are offensive: tying sensitive males with powerlessness, athletes with stupidity, and academics with homosexuality (something no doubt more offensive to homosexuals than to academics). All of these stereotypes seem not just prejudiced and distasteful, but also outdated, like the erotic costumes for Hurley (the Catholic schoolgirl outfit, the civil servant uniform, the angel costume, etc.). All in all, for a movie with huge swaths of Brendan Fraser running through it, Bedazzled is surprisingly bearable. But if you expect to see anything that you haven't seen before, or anything that will make you laugh harder than a mild chuckle, Bedazzled will leave you feeling anything but.


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