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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Bedazzled

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley
Director: Harold Ramis
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 93 Minutes
Release Date: October 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Frances O'Connor, Orlando Jones, Toby Huss

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

We all know the expression, "Be careful what you wish for: you may get it," but something doesn't sound quite right about that. How could we possibly not want what we want? Harold Ramis comes along with a dynamic visual accounting in the updating of the 1967 film with the same name, but this "Bedazzled" follows only the bare bones of the Dudley Moore/Peter Cook movie. Add some eye-popping special effects, proceed at a relentlessly fast pace, and lay on sight gags that work far more often than not, and you've got a picture that will entertain the eggheads in the audience as much as the popcorn crowd. With Elizabeth Hurley, suited up by costumer Deena Appel and making ferocious love to Bill Pope's camera as the most attractive Devil ever, "Bedazzled" is a surefire comedy hit that allows her and Brendan Fraser to strut their stuff in diverse comic characterizations.

Now then. How does one mess up the seven wishes that Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser) is allowed to make once he has summoned up The Devil (Elizabeth Hurley)? Simple. Instead of wishing to replace his nerdish self as a geekie technical troubleshooter at a computer firm with the guise of a handsome, well-rounded, hard-working and lovable fellow, he aspires instead for abstracts characteristics: smartest man alive; best athlete; most sensitive guy; VIP; richest and most powerful dude in the world. What's wrong with those attributes? Simply that they are extremes, and each time he is fitted out by the Devil with a feature he wants, he goes so far with that trait that he subverts what he truly desires.

While the Faust of the classic story by Goethe wishes for youth and the love of the woman of his dreams to replace his dry and dusty scholarly properties, Elliot already has youth. The trouble is that he is unable to do anything with the very trait for which Faust sold his soul to Mephistopheles. He hasn't the social graces, the intelligence, the money, or the influence that could charm Alison (Frances O'Connor) with whom he has worked for four years--though Alison cannot even recall ever seeing the lonely guy before. Wishing for great riches, the Devil turns Elliot into a Colombian drug lord who runs into trouble with his customers. For athetic prowess, he trumps even Michael Jordan but comes up short in another department. As a VIP he barely escapes assassination and as a brainy author, he talks too much to the woman he meets and aches for.

This is just the bare bones of a series of delightful visual gags. Not a single skit falters as the jokes come on more consistently than Stanley Donen turned out at the helm of the 1967 version of the movie. Fraser, a favorite of the 20- something market, has already compiled an impressive resume in movies like "The Mummy," "George of the Jungle" and the superior "Gods and Monsters," and here struts his stuff with the long hair of a Colombian drug kingpin whose money, power, and status as the husband of the lovely Alison do not lead to happiness; in the freckled face of the sensitive guy who could cry at a beautiful sunset; as the well-dressed, sophisticated denizen of parties for the cognoscenti; and more.

Fraser's chemistry with the lovely Elizabeth Hurley is striking, even convincing us that the young man has a special spot in the Devil's heart that makes her feel sorry enough for him to do one good, gratuitous deed to sew up the story. And the Australian performer, Frances O'Connor establishes herself as one who is not to be overwhelmed by the star power of Fraser and Hurley as she throws herself into the diverse roles as a would-be partner to Elliot.

Rick Heinrichs' production design looks expensive, imprinting on us a vision of a traditional hell populated with all the characters that had done Elliot wrong including his co- workers--who are played adeptly by Miriam Shor, Orland Jones, Paul Adelstein, and Toby Huss. To my eyes, the best scene in the 93-minute story, however, does not involve Fraser's presence at all. The Devil, who shows up from time to time doing her own thing when she is not serving Elliot, takes the role of a 9th-grade teacher whose board is filled with algebraic equations, some commentary on the history of wars, and a homework assignment. Erasing each in turn-- "you'll never use this [algebra]," "what's over is over," and "no homework"--she evokes more cheers from her blazer- costumed students than a squad of cheerleaders could elicit at touchdown time.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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