There was a good film somewhere in 'Bewitched'. A potentially clever premise, a good cast on paper (had reservations about Will Ferrell though), having liked some of Nora Ephron's other work like 'Sleepless in Seattle' and 'Julie & Julia' and being based on a classic TV show.
Sadly, one doesn't see a good film in 'Bewitched' in my opinion. It is not a case of the film not making an effort, there are sporadic moments of quality here but nowhere near enough. If anything, 'Bewitched' is a case of trying too hard, especially in the performance of Ferrell and trying to throw too much in. Is it as bad as critics say? No. There are certainly far worse films out there that don't have sporadic moments of quality and are far more complete messes, whereas 'Bewitched' is more a frustrating missed opportunity.
'Bewitched' is not completely awful. The photography, costumes and production design look great and are very colourful. The music has energy and whimsy with some clever song choices with groovy titles.
Although good moments are too far and between, they are there. Faring best are Steve Carrell's cameo (the highlight), Isabel and Jack cavorting to the title song and the missing dog monologue. A few of the cast members stand out. Carrell turns his short appearance into comedy gold, so much so that he and his character deserved a better film. Michel Caine and Shirley MacLaine show themselves to be conscientious professionals and have fun, though they did deserve better. Kristin Chenoweth has charm.
There are other elements that left me with mixed feelings. Nicole Kidman has some great, delightful moments as Isabel, but there are other times where she looks self-conscious. A far larger part of the problem is the way Isabel is written here, she is stripped of her charm and is reduced to a simpering and indecisive idiot and it gets annoying. The special effects vary, never amateurish but never special, some give off a little magic while others are sloppy.
Many elements of 'Bewitched' don't work. The fun, class and charm of the show is lost thanks to the lack of lightness of touch, the scattershot writing and Ephron (showing her most ill-at-ease direction and a complete misunderstanding as to what was so appealing about the show) trying to throw too much into the cauldron, making for one less than magical and overcrowded potion.
Ferrell is a big problem here. He overdoes it to the extreme to the point of being too abrasive and irritating, seeming to think that he is in another of his louder, raunchier comedies when the film and role should be much more lightly approached by that meaning he just doesn't fit.
Pacing is very stodgy as a result of trying to cram in too many situations and characters, a lot of the former being unresolved or rounded off abruptly and a lot of the latter given short shrift or written poorly. The story is charmless, dull and is as idiotic and brain-deprived as the lead character, also feeling very repetitive. The script has moments but they don't feel enough to save a vast majority of it being embarrassingly weak.
Overall, not that bad but less than bewitching and a frustrating missed opportunity that won't put a spell on the viewer. 4/10 Bethany Cox