Breaking the spell

Rated 3.0

The mere thought of a movie recycling of the Bewitched TV series should be enough to get the nose of any self-respecting moviegoer all atwitch.

Fortunately, Nicole Kidman is an airy and delicate comic sprite through much of the film. Unfortunately, Will Ferrell is more or less stuck in an only slightly modified variation of his trademark performance style—deer-in-the-headlights stare for comedy, blind man’s bluff for straight physical action, clenched teeth and flailing arms for tokens of drama. Fortunately again, Kidman is there to soften and/or gently transform nearly everything he tries—and she does it with conviction and grace.

And despite the arbitrary nature of the remake concept, the Nora and Delia Ephron screenplay (Nora also directs) has an amusing array of potential selling points. In addition to the built-in Bewitched antics and variations, there’s a mildly persistent streak of satire on Hollywood and the TV industry, assorted jibes at the illusions and delusions of commercialized “romance” and the culture of celebrity. And there is even a fitful Pirandellian dimension in which the actors dabble in self-parody and the plot does a few simple somersaults with fiction and reality.

But the Ephron Bewitched is seldom more than a grab bag of comic entertainment—an erratic array of jokes, wisecracks, slapstick and mock romantic drama. There are a few smartly written moments of wit and a brief flirtation or two with the notion that the characters become more human and real by immersing themselves in a fictional reality. But the only thing the film really seems to care about is tweaking the stars’ characters toward simple audience appeal—whatever happy ending can be extracted from a situation that both spoofs and celebrates the emotional logic of remakes and pop cultural recycling.