A Glimmer of Humor
By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 20, 2000
"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.
Elizabeth Hurley bewitches Brendan Fraser in "Bedazzled."
(Francois Duhamel/20th Century Fox)
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.