Directed by Harold Ramis
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O'Connor, Orlando Jones, Miriam Shor.
2000 92 minutes
Rated: (for profanity and violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 21, 2000.
At the risk of making a throwaway pun, "Bedazzled," directed by Harold Ramis (1993's "Groundhog Day"), is a devilishly enjoyable and savvy comedy that ends of packing quite a heavier punch by its conclusion than could have ever been expected. A loose remake of the 1967 Dudley Moore-starrer of the same name, the film is one of those rare cases in which the movie completely blindsides you, both because of its vast improvement over the unextraordinary theatrical trailer, and because of the unextraordinary trailer, which wisely does not even hint at how utterly imaginative and clever the proceedings are.
Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser) is a gawky computer consultant who is a genuinely nice guy that, nevertheless, is the type of eager-to-please person most people try to avoid having to confront in a conversation. Amid his odd-man-out treatment, his one true love is Alison Gardner (Frances O'Connor), a fetching coworker of Elliot's for three years who doesn't even know he exists. After a failed attempt to strike up a conversation with Alison at a bar, Elliot is distracted by a sultry, alluringly sexy woman (Elizabeth Hurley) who informs him that she is the Devil incarnate, and has come to grant him seven wishes in exchange for his soul. Following a round of persuasion tactics, the Devil convinces Elliot to sign the contract and wish away. But there's only one hitch: in her dastardly plan, with every wish he makes, the Devil wickedly misconstrues things so that they not work out for him.
One of the genuine pleasures of "Bedazzled" is in not only seeing where each of Elliot's wishes takes him, but how the Devil conditions each wish to only turn out negatively for him. Aside from the tiresome, overlong first vignette, in which he wishes to be rich, powerful, and married to Alison, only to become a Colombian drug lord under attack whose wife despises him, the movie is unadulterated fun from beginning to end, even when it appears to be nothing more than harmless fluff.
Had "Bedazzled" stayed on its predictable main course from beginning to end, the picture would be admirable, but hardly memorable. However, the screenplay, by Larry Gelbart, Harold Ramis, and Peter Tolan, is a rare comedy straight out of mainstream Hollywood that is actually ambitious in both its ideas and snappy writing, and concludes with several emotionally rewarding scenes that do not completely abandon their humorous roots, but clearly and wisely hold a valid moral, like any useful fairy tale.
In a multilayered role that, once and for all, ties up all doubts about his clear talent as a performer, Brendan Fraser (1999's "Dudley Do-Right") not only carries the film as the lovable, insecure Elliot, but also is given the chance to jump into the part and become (among others) a well-loved 7 1/2' pro basketball player, a highly intelligent and fashionable gay man, and the world's most emotionally sensitive guy. After a string of forgettable characters (including the aforementioned "Dudley Do-Right" and 1999's "The Mummy"), Fraser is back with a movie that fully exposes how very good he can be.
In what is inarguably the best performance I've seen her give, to date, Elizabeth Hurley singlehandedly steals the show as the "Princess of Darkness." Clearly exhibiting that she's having a fun time, Hurley digs into the tricky role with great relish, being both very funny and, at times, surprisingly threatening. What is so impressive about the writing is the way the movie dabbles in slapstick every now and again, but despite its fantastic nature, seems to be planted firmly in reality when dealing with the characters. Hurley's Lucifer could have easily been written as an evil, one-dimensional type, but she isn't; it is clear that she likes Elliot and maybe even grows to care about his well-being, but is, nonetheless, stuck going against his yearning for happiness due to her decidedly high title as king (or is it queen?) of the underworld.
Throughout the just-right 92-minute running time, "Bedazzled" is whimsical and reasonably lighthearted, but because Elliot has, indeed, sold his soul to Satan, the viewer is understandable to wonder how exactly the movie could conclude with a happy ending. Without giving any details away, director Harold Ramis finds the perfect climactic approach, striking a satisfying chord and holding it until the end credits. It's not every week that you see a movie that surpasses all expectations (no matter how high or low they may be) to become a first-rate film worth seeing by all, but "Bedazzled" does just that. It's a wonderfully original and entertaining comedy--the rarest of breeds.
©2000 by Dustin Putman