As one of many in the ongoing trend of resurrecting old TV shows and turning them into contemporary Hollywood product, Bewitched tries awfully hard to distinguish itself. It succeeds in lots of surprising ways, not least of which is the star power brought by Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell. Even if they don't create the kind of romantic chemistry that would have elevated the already high concept, they act as delightful foils to each other, but more often to themselves. The conceit of this Bewitched is that it's a self-reflexive look at the entertainment business, with Ferrell playing Jack Wyatt, an actor starring in an updated version of the classic TV show. Out of favor with the Hollywood elite and desperately in need of a hit, he insists on an unknown to play Samantha, as he wants the show to be about him, since if something doesn't come his way soon, he's going to be hearing a lot of no's, despite the yes-men surrounding him. While his agent (Jason Schwartzman in hilarious high Hollywood sleaze mode) gets him the "unknown Samantha" deal, it's Jack himself who discovers his own leading lady in the delightful figure of Isabel Bigalow (Kidman), who possesses just the right nose wiggle, not to mention other wiggles.
But wouldn't you know it, Isabel really is a witch, and exactly the kind of "good" witch trying to rely less on her magical powers that Samantha Stevens was back in her "real" world. Instead of a cranky mother like Endora, Isabel has a distinguished father, Nigel (Michael Caine) who lurks around her as a constant reminder that she can't be who she's not (a mere mortal), and she certainly can't be the star of some zany TV show. As the plot thickens and the movie's reflexivity grows more convoluted, Nigel falls for the non-witch actress who plays Endora (Shirley MacLaine), and Jack and Isabel fall for each other. Here's where the Ferrell/Kidman gel doesn't quite become aspic, but her perkiness (I mean, come on, it is Nicole Kidman, for crying out loud) and his goofiness (Ferrell is at his peak of intelligent bumbling) are more than enough to make the entirety of the proceedings a delectable trifle. Director Nora Ephron has fun skewering her own business in the script she co-wrote with her sister Delia, and her eye for quality craft makes everything sparkle as it should. Even if we have yet to see the definitive remake of an old TV show on the big screen, at least Bewitched is well more than run-of-the-mill as so many adaptations have been, and so many will be. --Ted Fry