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COLUMBIA TRISTAR

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Nora Ephron
Cast:
Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristin Chenoweth, Heather Burns, Jim Turner, Stephen Colbert, David Alan Grier, Steve Carell, Amy Sedaris
Writing Credits:
Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron, Sol Saks (television series)

Tagline:
Be warned. Be ready.

Synopsis:
Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman and wickedly funny Will Ferrell star as actors playing Darrin and Samantha on a remake of the television show Bewitched in this cleverly crafty comedy from director Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail).

Egomaniacal star Jack Wyatt (Ferrell) casts unknown Isabel (Kidman) as his co-star in order to monopolize the limelight and regain his top spot on Hollywood's A-list. When Isabel, a real witch, discovers Jack's self-centered scheme, she conjures a sidesplitting spell the mere mortal will never forget!

Box Office:
Budget
$85 million.
Opening Weekend
$20.131 million on 3174 screens.
Domestic Gross
$62.252 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 10/25/2005

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Nora Ephron
• “Witch-Vision” Trivia Track
• Deleted Scenes
• 10 Behind the Scenes Featurettes
• Trivia Game
• Trailers


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Bewitched: Special Edition (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 2, 2005)

With lead actors Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell, the 2005 film version of TV’s Bewitched looked like a “can’t miss” property. However, it did miss. The movie snagged a modest $62 million and quickly faded from theaters.

Maybe audiences have started to tire of TV remakes, as the summer of 2005’s efforts in that genre didn’t light the box office on fire. The Dukes of Hazzard earned a more substantial $79 million, but that still wasn’t a killer take. Or perhaps Kidman simply needs to avoid remakes, since 2004’s Stepford Wives also failed to soar.

At least Bewitched tried to offer a twist on its inspiration. Rather than cast Kidman as Samantha Stephens, it casts Kidman as a witch cast to play Samantha Stephens in a new Bewitched TV series. At the flick’s start, we meet Isabel Bigelow (Kidman), a witch who desires to lead a normal life. She sets up house in the San Fernando Valley and swears off her magical powers – most of the time, at least – despite the protestations of her warlock father Nigel (Michael Caine).

Along the way we meet Jack Wyatt (Ferrell), a movie star on the decline. His last couple of pictures tanked, his wife (Katie Finneran) left him for an underwear model, and he’s desperate for a career revival. He gets the role as Darrin in the Bewitched remake, but the egotistical Jack demands that he be the focus of the show, not Samantha.

Jack also insists that the producers cast an unknown as Samantha so an established actress won’t overshadow him. This proves difficult until Jack sees Isabel and her twitchy nose in a bookstore. She gets the part and the show enters production, though problems ensue due to Jack’s pushiness and ego.

Isabel doesn’t seem to mind this for a while, partially because she’s smitten with Jack. However, when she overhears him talk to his agent Ritchie (Jason Schwartman) and they make some rather rude and unflattering comments about her talents, Isabel goes off the deep end. She attempts to get back at him, though her true feelings eventually lead toward love. The movie follows the Isabel/Jack relationship, her status as a witch, and issues connected to the TV series.

That doesn’t sound like much of a plot, does it? Truth to tell, it isn’t much of a plot, but I suppose such a high-concept piece like this doesn’t really need a coherent story. Clearly director Nora Ephron figures she can coast on the wacky idea behind the film and the talents of the cast to keep us entertained.

And to a degree, she’s right. When Bewitched works, it does so largely because of Kidman. Despite an apparent attempt to channel Marilyn Monroe’s voice, she proves immensely appealing and charming as Isabel. Kidman isn’t known for this sort of light comedic role, but she brings real heart to Isabel and turns a thin part into something enjoyable.

Bewitched certainly packs in an excellent supporting cast. With folks like MacLaine and Caine, I find it difficult to quibble about the talents of the secondary performers. I will complain that they get little to do, however. Actually, Caine receives reasonable screen time, but poor MacLaine barely gets any material to convey. She makes the most of her moments but doesn’t receive attention worthy of her talents.

Speaking of talent, Ferrell has plenty of it, but he doesn’t show it here. He does poorly in the role because he never makes Jack even remotely sympathetic or likable. Jack’s a cartoony buffoon and egotist who we actively dislike most of the time. Why would Isabel fall for that jerk? I have no idea, and this bad choice by Ferrell mars the film. Since he’s such a prick, we never understand or accept the romantic side of the story. Jack and Isabel connect because the movie tells them to do so; there’s no logic or integrity to that side of things.

I do like the movie’s interesting concept, but that only goes so far. The idea behind the flick helps carry it for the first half or so. After that, it relies so much on the love story that it collapses. Since the romantic elements don’t work, the film falls apart.

I’ve seen worse TV remakes, and Bewitched offers a smattering of enjoyable elements, many of which stem from its cast. However, it doesn’t enjoy a strong story, and an odd character choice by Will Ferrell causes problems. The movie falls into the category of moderately entertaining but flawed.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Bewitched appears in an aspect ratio of approximately :1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the movie never looked bad, it failed to deliver a consistently impressive visual experience.

Sharpness presented a moderate concern. Much of the film seemed a little ill-defined, with shots that appeared just a bit “off” and unfocused. The definition wasn’t poor, but mild softness infused most of the flick. No jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and but I saw light edge enhancement at times. Print flaws weren’t an issue. Beyond a speck or two, no defects materialized.

Colors looked decent but unspectacular. The palette appeared somewhat strangely subdued, as the tones were moderately pale much of the time. At times they came to life, usually when we saw MacLaine; in particular, her outfits offered dynamic tones. Most of the other colors remained lackluster, though. This may have stemmed from production design, but I couldn’t figure out a logical reason why the filmmakers would elect to depict the action that way. Blacks were nicely deep and dense, though, and low-light shots came across as reasonably concise and well depicted. Bewitched consistently remained watchable, but this seemed like an erratic transfer overall.

On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Bewitched was surprisingly effective. Due to the magic scenes, the spectrum opened up more than I’d expect from a light comedy. Those sequences used the various channels quite well and created engaging settings when necessary.

Otherwise the soundfield was fairly restricted. Much of the track featured light general ambience and music, both of which worked fine. The score demonstrated nice imaging and the effects were accurately placed. The occasional magic sequence gave the track some oomph, but don’t expect a dazzling soundscape.

Audio quality seemed very good. Speech was consistently accurate and firm. I noticed no problems like edginess or a lack of clarity. Music appeared bright and acceptably lively, with solid range. Effects sounded detailed and distinctive and also offered nice bass when appropriate. Although the soundfield wasn’t stunning, the combination of compelling scenes and the high quality of the audio meant a “B+” grade for that area.

As we head to the DVD’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Nora Ephron. She offers a running, screen-specific affair. And quite a good one as well, as Ephron hits on many different subjects. She starts with thoughts about the TV series and her desire to make something other than a straight remake. From there Ephron goes into sets, locations and production design, casting, working with the actors, improvisation and rehearsal, script and story issues, special effects, music, costumes and cinematography.

Really, it’s tough to think of any stone left unturned by Ephron, as she covers the appropriate parts of the production. She does so with candor and insight. Yeah, she tends toward a little more praise than I’d like, and there’s also a bit of dead air. Nonetheless, Ephron presents a nice synopsis of the film’s creation and makes this a solid commentary.

Entitled Witch Vision, we also get a text commentary. It divides its information into four different subtopics: “Scene Specific”, “Bewitched Production”, “Star Facts”, and “TV Series”. Based on those titles, you can probably figure out that this piece looks at elements related to the film and its participants as well as background on various materials and connections to the TV show. It gets into many nice factoids and proves to be useful.

Six Deleted Scenes run between 35 seconds and two minutes, eight seconds for a total of six minutes, 44 seconds of footage. As you can surmise from their brevity, not much of significance pops up here. However, some amusement does occur, especially during a story pitch session in which Jack concentrates more on fun locations like Hawaii than he does good plots. We also see a short clip of the wedding at the end.

Next we find a whopping10 Behind the Scenes Featurettes. However, that number is a little deceptive as eight of them appear under the banner of “Star Shots”. We begin with the 23-minute and 31-second “Casting a Spell: Making Bewitched”. It offers the usual mix of movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We discover information from Ephron, producers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher, co-screenwriter Delia Ephron, production designer Neil Spisak, costume designer Mary Zophres, and actors Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Jason Schwartzman, Jim Turner, Heather Burns, Michael Caine, Kristin Chenoweth, David Alan Grier and Stephen Colbert.

The documentary looks at the decision to adapt the TV series and related issues, Nora Ephron’s style, casting, rehearsal, improvisation and performances, locations and production design, costumes, effects, and the movie’s themes. A fair amount of the information repeats from the audio commentary, so don’t expect a great amount of new notes here. “Spell” comes across as glossy and fairly enjoyable but it never turns into a terribly memorable program.

The eight “Star Shots” featurettes fill a total of 19 minutes and five seconds; each one goes between one minute, 56 seconds and two minutes, 40 seconds. These concentrate on Kidman, Ferrell, MacLaine, Caine, Schwartzman, Chenoweth, Grier and Colbert. We hear from each of those actors along with Turner, Wick, Burns, Nora Ephron, and Fisher,

Very fluffy in nature, these pieces look at the actors and their roles. A lot of the content simply consists of praise for those involved, but we get some funny cracks and a smidgen of decent information about the roles and performers. With some exceptions – Schwartman digs into his part well - they’re not particularly informative, but they’re painless.

Finally, the “Featurettes” area ends with “Why I Loved Bewitched”. This six-minute and 41-second program includes remarks from Grier, Colbert, Ferrell, Delia Ephron, Kidman, Schwartzman, Chenoweth, Caine, and Nora Ephron. The title tells the truth, as this largely consists of praise for the series. It lacks much insight; except for a look at how Samantha represented women in the era, we usually just hear accolades. I didn’t love “Loved”.

The Trivia Game completely restricts itself to questions about the TV series. If you check out the subtitle commentary, you’ll find the answers to some of these. For the rest, you’re on your own. I had to guess at a lot of them, as I really don’t remember a whole lot about the show. It’s a forgiving quiz, however, so mistakes don’t become fatal.

At the start of the DVD, we encounter some ads. We get promos for Memoirs of a Geisha, The Legend of Zorro, and Fun With Dick and Jane and The DaVinci Code. These also appear in the Previews area along with clips for the Bewitched TV series, Stealth, Lords of Dogtown, Rent, Jiminy Glick in Lalawood, Open Season, The Pink Panther and Zathura.

Fitfully entertaining, the movie version of Bewitched enjoys a few good performances and an interesting concept. However, Will Ferrell proves unlikable in the lead and the film collapses during its second half since it relies on his charm. The DVD offers decent picture with surprisingly solid sound as well as a pretty interesting package of extras. Grab the DVD if you know you like the movie, but for others, I can’t advise more than a potential date-night rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.0769 Stars Number of Votes: 13
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