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
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