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Bedazzled Print E-mail
Tuesday, 15 April 2003


20th Century Fox Home Video
MPAA rating: R
starring: Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O’Connor
release year: 2000
film rating: Two-and-a-Half Stars
sound/picture: Three-and-a-Half Stars
reviewed by: Abbie Bernstein

There’s a saying that goes, "The Devil is in the details." The folks involved in the remake of "Bedazzled" might have heeded that adage a little more, as they ignore their own mythology at their peril.

This "Bedazzled" is a remake of the original 1967 "Bedazzled," itself a spoof of the Faust legend. In both movies, a lonely, lovestruck schnook sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for seven wishes in order to land the girl of his dreams. Naturally, the wishes all come with unforeseen drawbacks. The first version was directed by Stanley Donen, starring and, perhaps even more importantly, written by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Cook and Moore were a formidable comedy team in their heyday – think of a slightly earlier Monty Python troupe as a duo.

The new "Bedazzled" gets off to a very promising start, with an opening Devil’s-eye view of the world in Chapter 1, picking out individuals in crowds and labeling them ("freeloader" for a baby in a backpack, for instance), seeking susceptible souls. Then the movie proper gets going and settles down for what turns out to be a not entirely non-entertaining but still long haul.

Brendan Fraser plays our hero Elliot, a tech support worker who is so nerdy that he is universally shunned. He pines for beautiful co-worker Alison (Frances O’Connor), who doesn’t know he exists. When the Devil (Elizabeth Hurley) appears and offers to make it possible for Elliot to have his heart’s desire, Elliot very sensibly is initially skeptical. However, he inevitably caves in, only to find that there’s a loophole or two in every wish.

Each wish finds the versatile and game Fraser in a different persona, which shows off his acting gifts but winds up not serving the plot. Here is where the script by Larry Gelbart and director Harold Ramis & Peter Tolan collapses on itself. The first wish, in which Elliot wants to be rich, powerful and married to Alison and winds up in a very dicey situation, is funny because Elliot is shocked by his trappings. However, thereafter Elliot is at home in his new identities without ever wishing to be. Worse, although the wishes are supposed to unravel on technicalities, they don’t adhere to the letter of the wish in the first place. In Wish # 2, Elliot wants Alison to be in love with him; instead, she’s bored silly by him. No matter which way you cut it, this goes against the fundamental premise – which might still be okay if it had a decent payoff. However, the rules of the game are cheated for what often turn out to be lame results. "Bedazzled" isn’t nearly outrageous enough to get away with assuming the audience isn’t really paying attention.

Fraser is at least consistently lively, appealing (even when he’s not supposed to be – Fraser as a character who’s worried about being unattractive and unfit may be a bigger stretch than the story’s theology) and good company. Hurley is monumentally sexy, although she hardly exudes supernatural menace. Then again, the movie can’t seem to make up its mind just how evil her Devil is, so the lightweight effect can’t be wholly blamed on the actress.

The DVD features one lightly joking, okay commentary track from director Ramis and another commentary from Hurley and producer Trevor Albert that features discussion of the various locations. The making-of featurette is standard. More interesting are the two scoring sessions, which provide picture-in-picture action of the scenes in question while showing the orchestra in the studio, playing the music. One special feature that will appeal to audiophiles is the THX audio/video test, which allows the user to check out home theatre equipment performance in relation to the DVD. The opening menu is coy, giving the viewer four "wishes" that all lead to the main menu. The commentary tracks can be found in both the "languages" and "special features" menus.

The 5.1 mix is fairly uninspired. Ambient sounds are mixed into the rears, but so lightly that in order to hear them, it is necessary to virtually put ear to speaker, especially in the first three chapters, although Chapter 4 finally amps up with the introduction of the Devil. Chapter 1 features a bouncy rendition of "Sweet You" from Johnny Walker that sounds lively in the center and mains. Chapter 6 produces one big, startling audio sting in all speakers when Elliot signs his contract. Chapter 7 has one of the film’s better visual effects, a rack-focus that starts on Elliot and zooms out to an improbable distance to show the extent of his newfound wealth. The rears come to life somewhat in Chapter 8, which has a shoot-out, a rocket launcher and finally the inevitable whir of helicopter rotors, which are all present but still not very punchy. Chapter 17 presents another big, multi-speaker audio sting to herald a wish transition and Chapter 19 has some pretty, delicate guitar music in the mains.

Normally it’s not fair to compare films to one another, but this "Bedazzled" invites at least memories of the earlier version by borrowing not only the title but certain framework elements, as opposed to simply being an independent comic update of "Faust." Expecting the equivalent of Cook and Moore at their peak would be still more unfair, but wanting a movie that at least is consistent on its own terms seems reasonable enough. Parts of "Bedazzled" are funny, but too often, the movie seems to expect us to laugh at punchlines that don’t have adequate set-ups.

more details
sound format:
English 5.1 Surround; English Dolby Surround; French Dolby Surround
aspect ratio(s):
special features: Making-Of Featurette; Audio Commentary Track with Director Harold Ramis; Audio Commentary Track with Elizabeth Hurley and Producer Trevor Albert; Costume Design Featurette; Stills Gallery; Two Scoring Sessions; THX Audio and Video Tests; Theatrical Trailers; English and Spanish Subtitles
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 27-inch Toshiba

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