|Starring:||Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, and Jason Schwartzman|
Okay, the drought continues. This time we have an update of a TV show that was based on a movie that was based on a play, which was for it’s time, a most original idea.
Now they couldn’t just remake “Bell, Book and Candle,” right? The suits would think: “Wait a moment, people would say that they’re doing a ‘Bewitched’ ripoff.”
So they got the rights to the TV show and then they were stuck. Nobody wants to see big screen remakes of old TV shows, right? The only ones of that genre to succeed were “Superman, Batman, and The Fugitive.”
Nora Ephron has had a really good track record when it comes to screenplays and with her smarter sister Delia in tow, she’s been downright invincible. So this is a challenge for them.
The result? Inside baseball!
This is about Hollywood, not about witches and when it sticks to that level, it works brilliantly. The sisters have it down pat. The agents, the actors, the assistants and their assistants are perfectly portrayed. It’s the fantasy that doesn’t work exactly right.
Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman) has just arrived from Narnia, Oz, or wherever these types of witches hang out and has moved to LA, where she uses her magic powers to get a good rate on a split level ranch. She wants to lead a normal life, much to the chagrin her dad Nigel (Michael Caine), who knows that this can come to no good. He’s brilliant, she’s ditzy, and we’re not sure where this is going…meanwhile,… Jack Wyatt(Will Ferrell), a movie star on the wane, is in a whole lot of trouble. His last film tanked, and his wife left him for the pool boy. He needs a job, so his agent Ritchie (Jason Scwartzman) gets him a gig playing Darrin on a remake of that old TV show from the 1960s…um….now what was it called?
That’s where the concept peaks. Jack needs a nobody to play Samantha, so he finds Isabel in a coffee shop and she gets the job. This allows the Ephrons to be as self referential as possible without seeming to be disrespecting the original material. They can comment on the TV show’s flaws directly, no need for pussyfooting here! Comment directly! Great!
After allowing Shirley MacLaine some mugging as Iris Smythson, the retired diva playing Endora, the film begins to fall apart. Even though Ferrell gets a wonderful bit of shtick somewhere near the middle of the film, it loses it’s direction completely. The Ephrons don’t know how to do fantasy and it shows. The final act of the film is horrid.
This is about the most uneven movie of the year.