A Spell That Slowly Unravels
Release Date: June 24, 2005
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell,
Shirley MacLaine, and Michael
Audience: Older children to adults
Runtime: 90 minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures/Sony
Director: Nora Ephron
Executive Producer: James Skotchdopoile, Steven H.
Berman and Bobby Cohen
Producer: Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher,
Penny Marshall, and Nora
Writer: Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron and
Address Comments To:Sony Pictures Entertainment
Chairman and CEO
Chairman of Film Group
10202 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232-3195
Phone: (310) 244-4000
Fax: (310) 244-2626
Web Page: www.spe.sony.com
As is often the case with movies adapted from television programs, the producers forgot that television is based on character, while movies are based on plot. The setup for this movie is that Isabel Bigelow, played wonderfully by Nicole Kidman, wants to live a normal life and give up her addiction to using witchcraft to get her way. In the middle of the movie, she forgets her motivational premise, and the story becomes one of accepting people who are different, namely witches. Then, to end the movie, the filmmakers introduce a deus ex machina, or a previously non-existent character who forces the ending. In other words, the structure is a mess. So, perhaps this studio exec mentioned above had more wisdom than noted.
What saves most of the movie, however, is some laugh-out-loud humor. Regrettably, between the humorous moments are some big yawns.
The story goes like this: Isabel wants to be human. Jack Wyatt has failed as a movie star, so he’s being offered his last chance at fame as Darren in a new TV version of BEWITCHED. He is so full of himself that he doesn’t realize Darren is a secondary character. The series producers decide to cast an unknown as Samantha, and then Jack discovers Isabel. Little does he know, in his self-absorbed egocentric stupor, that Isabel is actually a witch. Little does the audience know that the studio hires a washed-up star, Iris Smythson (Shirley MacLaine) to play Samantha’s mother Endora. Iris is also really a witch.
This clash of cultures provides an opportunity for some funny humor, some scatological humor, and some dull moments. Finally, Jack and Isabel realize they love each other for who they are, and they try to figure out how to make their relationship work.
Aside from the needlessly complicated plot, the actors in this movie are totally mismatched. Will Farrell and Shirley MacLaine play their roles over the top, as campy as they could possibly be. Meanwhile, Nicole Kidman and Michael Caine are as low-key as they can be. It’s almost as if the audience is watching two different movies. Will Farrell gets tiresome after a while. His best roles were in ELF and KICKING AND SCREAMING, so it seems that his range is very limited. Further, the music is off-key, and the camera work is plain-Jane.
Morally, the movie is bogged down by elitism. Isabelle’s father Nigel, played by Michael Caine, chides her for not wanting to be with other witches. The movie convinces you that she would be better off with her own kind. This outmoded perspective is compounded by lying, cheating, breaking one’s word, and other moral defects.
Spiritually, the movie lives within the dark side of witchcraft. The movie makes the absurd statement upfront that every woman wants to be a witch. In fact, the movie is subtly talking about the unredeemed power struggle between men and women, and attempting equalizing it through magic. Women packed the screening audience, and some we talked to said they would have liked to be witches.
That said, many years ago, before this my conversion, I was friends with Dr. Andrea Puharich, the brilliant scientist who managed Uri Geller and other talk show occult phenonema. His house in Ossining, NY was occupied by several very attractive women who called themselves witches and who enjoyed one-night stands. In other words, this witchcraft life is not just a fantasy. There are people who take it seriously, and one of the things that brought this writer to Christ was the constant backbiting and bickering inside this group.
Spiritually, witchcraft is an attempt to get one's way, or exercise power through the secretive manipulation of reality. Jews and Christians believe that human beings live in a real world with real pain and real suffering that cannot be wished away or changed by incantations or flapping lips, but where there is real salvation through a real savior, God Himself, who is Jesus Christ. Witchcraft believes that a witch can manipulate a not-so-real or nominalistic world. In contrast, the clear evidence points to the truth of the Christian view, or as the Bible says in Romans 1 all of creation testifies to His Truth.
Thus, BETWITCHED gets an abhorrent acceptability rating for its promotion of this self-destructive philosophy. MOVIEGUIDE® recommends you do not let your young children, especially daughters, watch this movie.
Morally, the movie is bogged down by elitism. Isabelle’s father chides her for not wanting to be with her own kind. This outmoded perspective is compounded by lying, cheating, and breaking one’s word. Spiritually, the movie lives within the dark side of witchcraft. It says upfront that every woman wants to be a witch. MOVIEGUIDE® recommends you not let young children, especially daughters, watch this movie.