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A Glimmer of Humor

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 20, 2000

   


    'Bedazzled' Elizabeth Hurley bewitches Brendan Fraser in "Bedazzled."
(Francois Duhamel/20th Century Fox)
"Bedazzled" won't go down as the greatest remake or comedy ever made. It's certainly no improvement on the subversive, memorable "Bedazzled" of 1967, featuring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

But in this lackluster season of entertainment discontent, we are scrambling to find anything that even flickers with funniness. As the geek whose soul becomes the Devil's most urgent obsession, Brendan Fraser is one funny, mixed-up guy. And as Ms. Lucifer, the new scourge of Fraser's life, Elizabeth Hurley crackles with sexy sarcasm.

Incidentally, finding good laughs in this movie was not helped by 20th Century Fox's ubiquitous "Bedazzled" preview this summer, which essentially gave away most of the jokes and high points. Why does Hollywood do that? As a nation of moviegoers, are we so collectively stupid or inattentive or reticent about leaving home that we must have the entire movie laid out before us, not to mention those pleasant surprises?

Luckily, Fox saved one or two funny moments for the extended length pay version.

Elliot is a large-framed, clumsy technical support staffer who makes associates duck and run when he comes by. He's madly in love with co-worker Alison Gardner (Frances O'Connor), who's barely aware he exists. Guess what – or whom – he wishes for. And guess who offers him seven wishes for the modest price of his own soul.

There's an escape clause. If Elliot feels as though the wish isn't going well, the Devil assures him, all he has to do is page her (no prize for guessing the three-digit combination). But each time he stops the wish from continuing, his seven-wish count gets lower.

Essentially, the movie consists of Elliot's desires, followed by the Devil's short-circuiting of those desires. When Elliot wishes for enormous wealth and to be married to Alison, for example, the Devil turns him into a Colombian drug lord. And although Alison's married to Elliot, she's got eyes for another. In this movie, the devil is in the details.

You won't leave this with any sense that Elliot and the Devil had one helluva tussle, just that some of the stuff was funny. Writer-director Harold Ramis and writers Larry Gelbart and Peter Tolan are better with creating amusing moments than they are with creating an atmospheric feel for good and evil – the allegorical underpinning that would have brought a little heft to the comedy. But, I guess, since they weren't aiming to make a classic in the first place, why put their feet to the fire? To appreciate this, you have to go with a one-joke formula: watching how the Devil can undo Elliot's wishes.

I don't want to be like the "Bedazzled" trailer and spoil any more jokes, but when Elliot wishes to be the most emotionally sensitive guy in the world, it's a hilarious scene. Fraser's sensitive guy – so unbearably tender, he can't stop shuddering with tears at beautiful sunsets – is almost worth the price of admission.

"Bedazzled" (PG-13, 90 minutes) – Contains sexual situations, drug use and strong language.

 

Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company


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