Release Date: October 20th, 2000 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Harold Ramis Actors: Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O’Connor, Miriam Shor, Orlando Jones, Paul Adelstein
he tale of Faust’s tragedy has been told countless times in film, but the original screenplay by Dudley Moore and Peter Cook from the 1967 Stanley Donen feature clearly serves as the basis for Harold Ramis’ modernized remake of “Bedazzled.” This new account may result in a generally average comedy, but with exceptionally fitting actors and a steady barrage of laughs, it’s a nonetheless entertaining venture. Even though it’s been done before, a good cinematic story serves as the foundation – and it’s certainly not a disappointment to see Brendan Fraser at his wittiest or Elizabeth Hurley at her sexiest.
Elliot (Brendan Fraser) is a hopelessly pathetic, socially inept, unusually unimpressive guy, who has no friends and, worse yet, can’t seem to fit in with a crowd of associates from his dead-end job in San Francisco. After embarrassing himself at a local bar, he meets a mysterious woman (Elizabeth Hurley) who claims to be the devil. She propositions him with a fantastical arrangement in which she’ll grant seven wishes in exchange for his soul. Uncertain at first, he’s consumed with the understandably tempting possibilities (after all, his current situation could use some spice) and eventually agrees – only to become rather quickly overwhelmed at spontaneous lifestyles of wealth, fame, and significance. Each wish involves some small element that goes terribly awry, finding Elliot scurrying back to the devil, begging to undo his current request so he can try again with another, more carefully worded longing. When he realizes that the devil intends to corrupt and skew each of his desires into the worst possible scenarios, he struggles to find a way out of her horrifying scheme.
Unlike Aladdin’s “no wishing for more wishes” rule, Elliot’s initial asking encompasses so much that he might have been able to get all of his cravings into just the first one. Wishing for vast riches, power, and to be married to his true love – disinterested coworker Alison (Frances O’Connor) – he quickly learns that the devil’s definitions of these coveted modi vivendi are anything but his own. In the blink of an eye, he becomes a moneyed Colombian drug lord but is despised by his wife, betrayed by his men, and shot at by unhappy Russian drug dealers; he becomes a tall, fit basketball star but is markedly deficient in the sexual organ department; and when he becomes a sophisticated author, he’s also given a gay partner. His only escape from these unexpected complications is a cell phone from the devil, which he can use to magically transport himself to her location.
With each wish, he focuses on idealizing a different vanity – such as intelligence, sensitivity, and attractiveness – but at the same time he finds himself losing other qualities he neglected to specifically dictate in his hasty instructions. It’s a classic plot of both comically misinterpreting fantasy ideals (reimagining the “wrong man” scenario or dabbling in devious mind games) and examining metamorphosing moralities, encompassing the notion that the important things in life cannot be fulfilled with shallow achievements. In the end, Elliot is essentially incapable of precisely defining what he most desires for himself.
Fraser is goofy in the lead, and though his introduction is an over-the-top exaggeration of a maladroit misfit, he effortlessly slips into appropriately amusing comedic form in subsequent uncomfortable positions. The humor is periodically immature but largely universal as Ramis garners steady laughs from cleverly orchestrated situations and efficient visuals. Placing a lusty actress in the place of Mephistopheles is a unique twist from Donen’s take, which saw titillating counterpart Raquel Welch memorably playing only one of the personified seven deadly sins that aids the devil’s revelries. Dispensing with those elements allows Hurley to create a centralized antagonist perhaps more effective than her predecessor George Spiggott (Peter Cook). The British version has a much dryer and subtler approach to humor, yet Ramis steals several nearly identical events to use in his revision. Despite the comparably large predicament (which plagued the original) and preachy ethics messages (again, a point of criticism in ’67), the Hollywood ending is acceptably unproblematic and the modifications on previous funny gags are thoroughly enjoyable.
– Mike Massie