Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Harold Ramis
Stars: Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O’Connor, Miriam Shor, Orlando Jones, Paul Adelstein, Toby Huss, Gabriel Casseus, Brian Doyle-Murray.
The old aphorism about being careful what you wish for is at the centre of this new comedy from Harold Ramis (Analyze This, etc). Working with co-writers Peter Tolan (Analyze This) and Larry Gelbart (creator of the brilliant, long running sitcom MASH, etc), Ramis brings a contemporary and blackly comic edge to this funny and efficient remake of the 1967 Peter Cook/Dudley Moore comedy Bedazzled, a take-off of the old Faustian legend. He updates and reinvents the material for today’s audiences, who are more sophisticated and who have probably never seen the original.
Brendan Fraser is at his naive, goofball best here as Elliot Richards, a desperate, lonely loser with all the personality of wallpaper, who works at Synedyne, a San Francisco computer company. His inept social skills have his colleagues ducking for cover and trying to avoid him. After an embarrassing rejection at a pub one night, Elliot reluctantly makes a deal with the Devil (in the delectable form of Elizabeth Hurley) in which he agrees to trade “one piddling soul” for seven wishes which he hopes will bring him closer to the woman of his dreams – co-worker Allison (Australian actress Frances O’Connor), who barely acknowledges his existence.
But in underhanded fashion, the devil somehow manages to subvert his wishes so that they all end up disastrously. His wish to become very rich and powerful sees him turned into a Colombian drug lord; his wish to become a great sporting hero admired by legions of fans comes with one very small problem; etc.
Bedazzled works well for the most part, but there are some moments that misfire. Ramis’ direction is slick, and he manages to make this cautionary tale quite funny and entertaining, although there is an unnecessary element of mawkishness towards the finish. Ramis takes advantage of some great special effects to add to the tale, although the basketball sequences seem rather inept and clumsy. Although Ramis and co have updated the premise for the ’90’s, the themes are still rather timeless and worth another airing.
Fraser has a lot of fun in his role, which enables him to demonstrate a versatility not previously displayed in his earlier roles, enabling him to play several different characters and a great range of comic styles. In his transformation into a champion basketball player he is barely recogniseable. Hurley chews up the scenery in her role as a seductive devil, and plays her more as a mischievous naughty girl rather than anything else. In her first major Hollywood film, O’Connor has a charming presence, and makes the most of a nothing role.