(director/writer: Harold Ramis; screenwriters: Larry Gelbart/Peter Tolan/based on the motion picture “Bedazzled,” screenplay by Peter Cook, story by Cook, Dudley Moore; cinematographer: Bill Pope; editor: Craig P. Herring; cast: Brendan Fraser (Elliot), Elizabeth Hurley (the Devil), Frances O’Connor (Alison/Nicole), Miriam Shor (Carol/Penthouse Hostess), Orlando Jones (Dan/Esteban/ Beach Jock/Sportscaster/African Party Guest), Paul Adelstein (Bob/Roberto/Beach Jock/ Sportscaster/ Lincoln Aide), Aaron Lustig (Synedyne Supervisor), Toby Huss (Jerry/Alejandro/Beach Jock/Sportscaster/Lance), Gabriel Casseus (Elliot’s Cellmate); Runtime: 93; 20th Century Fox; 2000)
“What this film lacked was a real sense of the bizarre… .”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Devil made him do it, and the Devil’s a gorgeous she in a revealing red dress. “Bedazzled” is a story about a desperate computer geek who signs away his immortal soul in exchange for seven wishes, which all center around him and a girl from his workplace he has fallen in love with but who doesn’t even notice him.
Before Hollywood got a hold of this theme, literature did. For example, writers such as Christopher Marlowe, in his 16th century book on Faust, and Goethe when writing about Faust in his 18th century novel. However, “Bedazzled” is a remake of a more vulgar source for the Faust legend, Stanley Donen’s 1967 very funny satire, which starred (and was written by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore). This “Bedazzled” provides some lighthearted fun with the theme, but is not quite as wicked and not as funny as Donen’s. It allows the main character to learn the folly of getting what he wishes for: in the process his wishes fizzle out after he gets them. But when he smartens up and learns to tone down his obnoxious behavior and relax by being himself, he therefore becomes a much wiser person. It almost seemed ridiculously out of place to hear him become so virtuous from this experience (far too serious a moral for this farce), as he becomes in the end a humanitarian who realizes that he can’t sell his soul because he never owned it.
The action takes place in modern San Francisco. Brendan Fraser is Elliot Richards, a loser with a nerdy smile, who is a computer tech-support worker. His fellow workers find him intolerable and make a considerable effort to find ways of not being with him. The Devil comes by way of the very sexy and witty Elizabeth Hurley, who tempts him with a chance to be with his workplace dream, Alison (Frances O’Connor), if he just signs the contract and releases his soul for the wishes. Hurley gives this film its purpose and sense of tart humor, but even her role seems punchless and absurd. Though, it is hard to understand why the geek wasn’t more tuned into her and used one of the seven wishes granted to bag her instead of the rather ordinary Frances. Frances O’Connor does an adequate job in a role that mainly requires her to be desirable in many different ways. She has a sweet smile and shows she can display a nifty tantrum but compared to Hurley’s beauty and wit, she comes off clearly second best in both categories and would not have been my first wish. Besides the Devil owns a trendy nightspot and drives the stylishly expensive Lamborghini Diablo, and seems to have her pulse on what’s happening in town.
All seven wishes are played out as comedy sketches with stereotype gags and dull-witted humor; such as, the one where he becomes the witty author who is well-equipped but learns that he is gay. Some skits do have some spark, like the dumb giant N.B.A. basketball player with the tiny private part. And the one with the Colombian drug lord who is married to Alison, but she hates him and disses him for one of his underlings. Fraser draws comedy from his ever-changing facial expressions, as he learns he can speak Spanish. But my favorite skit is when he becomes the most sensitive man in the world who loses Alison to a beach jock, as she can’t take his sensitivity anymore when he cries at how beautiful the sunset is. The other skits were too thinly sketched, with the worst one being when he is President Lincoln.
The film uses the same actors who play Fraser’s unfriendly co- workers as comic characters in all the wish sketches, which adds a feeling of continuity.
What this film lacked was a real sense of the bizarre, it seemed more like a benign TV comedy hour program than a devilish satire. It painted too clean a picture of everyone. Every wish seemed redundant and doomed to failure because Fraser didn’t know how to be specific when he made his wishes. I think Harold Ramis could have come up with funnier and less obvious skits, there was a lot to play around with that wasn’t even attempted. The film went mostly for the physical humor of Brendan Fraser, who is no Buster Keaton. He can’t carry an entire film with his comic antics.
REVIEWED ON 10/26/2000 GRADE: C-