At some time or other, most of us have probably wanted something so desperately that we’ve contemplated selling our souls for it, only to think twice before entering into a pact with Old Nick. Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser), a four-eyed techie dweeb who turns into a googly-eyed lovesick puppy, initially has his reservations, too, but then finally succumbs. The girl of his dreams is coworker Allison Gardner (Frances O’Connor), and he desires her so passionately that he hands his spiritual essence right over to the Queen of Darkness (Elizabeth Hurley) in exchange for seven wishes.
The thespian execution of those wishes represents what’s both good and bad about Bedazzled, an airy comedy directed by Harold Ramis (Analyze This) and loosely adapted from the more memorable 1968 film by the same name that was written by and starred Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Detractors of the 2000 iteration have a point: with its overriding focus on the wish sequences, the film lacks substance, getting so bogged down in its ultra-linear structure that it forgets to say much that’s more meaningful (save the usual pabulum about a good guy finding true happiness in the end). But I enjoyed it nonetheless. Though Bedazzled may not be diabolically clever, it can be devilishly good fun at times, thanks in large part to stand-out performances from both Fraser and the triumvirate of Paul Adelstein (Bob), Orlando Jones (Dan), and Toby Huss (Jerry)—Elliot’s colleagues who are fed up with his dorky prattle about checking out babes and experiencing the acoustic power of totally awesome speakers.
Fraser’s an actor of considerable comedic virtuosity and showmanship, seamlessly capturing the essence of the stereotyped characters he portrays—from a Colombian drug lord (his Spanish is impressive, I might add), to an environmentally friendly douchebag who’s so sensitive that Allison treats him as a doormat, to a hulking basketball pro who uses every sports-interview cliché in the book, to an urbane raconteur and ladies’ magnet who unfortunately turns out to putt from the rough. His three office “buddies,” who appear in the wishes with him, often stand in the way of his happiness with Allison (except in the basketball-star one, where his teeny wang does that for him). Even when they’re on Eliot’s side, they help exaggerate the overall caricature. My favorite example is Orlando Jones in the raconteur wish, in which he plays a snooty intellectual who looks Elliot up and down with his eyeglasses before pronouncing, “Well Elliot, your book has already won the Poo-litzer price and it hasn’t even been poo-blished yet!”
Hurley’s portrayal of Satan would be my only reservation about the acting. She looks darkly sultry to be sure in those satiny red pants that snugly sculpt her hourglass figure, and with those pouty lips and that poofy hair. But her delivery of the lines is just so damn plastic. Can’t we have a Devil with a bit more coyness, wry lip-curling, and sly insinuation? I suppose it doesn’t help that Hurley is a bit of a galootish gal, at 5’8″ looking rather clumsy as she struts around in high heels before matter-of-factly informing Eliot that he better hurry up and make his wishes because she has “places to go, people to condemn to a lifetime of fiery torment.”
The good news is that the film’s really all about Elliot anyway, and there are times his goofball face alone is enough to make you fall off your chair. His performance distracts us from looking at it as an incongruous mélange of an I Dream of Jeanie episode and a succession of Saturday Night Live parodies. Definitely don’t watch this if you’re expecting high comedy, but those who disabuse themselves of that notion and enjoy the film’s silliness for what it is may be in for some wicked laughs.
Joe’s Grade: B