- Bedazzled (2000)
- Directed by Harold Ramis
- Starring Brendan Frasier and Elizabeth Hurley
Admittingly, I went into this movie with reservations. The original 1968 version, starring Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, is among my favorite films.
The first thing that struck me, remains the most important aspect of the film: Elizabeth Hurley is hot, simple as that. If you add in the attraction of her being the devil AND being THAT beautiful, it would be hard to give the film a negative review. This is not only the best thing about this movie, but it, indeed, is an improvement over the premise of the first. Unfortunately, that is where the total sum of the enjoyment in this film lies.
For those unaware of the premise, it’s very simple. The devil offers up 7 wishes to a mortal. In exchange, the mortal signs over his soul for eternal damnation. This setup immediately calls into effect the “Groundhog Day” rule. Formally known as the “Invisible Man” rule, it officially was changed due to the fact that it has been decades since anyone came close to getting the invisibility cliche right. The rule applies to all films that offer up a common fantasy; to be successful, the film must have characters that respond to the fantasy as we, the audience, would respond. Groundhog day was very successful in this aspect. Given the chance to live a single day over and over again, the choices that Bill Murray’s character made did a fine job of exploring the very opportunities that the audience would have partaken of, if they had been given the chance. Bedazzled, in this modern incarnation, flops in this aspect.
In the original, Dudley Moore’s wishes were doomed for two reasons. The first is reproduced in the newer film; the devil takes his wishes verbatim and uses the vagueness of the language to ruin the fantasies. The 1968 version also took advantage of the principle that even if one receives what one wants, it isn’t always going to be a pleasant marriage. Ramis’ version utterly removes this aspect from the fable, leaving a cold hollowness to the moral fiber of the story. The devil is just being evil is a bit thin of a premise to carry a movie.
The biggest distraction, though, was the poor visualization of the doomed wishes. Strangely, all the pieces felt outdated. One scene, in which Frasier’s character is fulfilling his dream to be powerful and wealthy, is set in the mansion of a Columbian drug lord. This would have worked much better in the early eighties and really doesn’t carry any presence into the new century. A second wish leads us to a very seventies feeling beach scene, which again feels more out of place than the 60’s fashions of the first movie would today.
A third wish leads us on a funny, although very base basketball fantasy, primarily designed to spark interest in the trailer. And a final wish, involving a little twist of sexual orientation, provides us with the movies funniest scenes. It also gives Frasier a character he can have some fun with, which is something that is lacking from most of the movie.
Even the devil’s “lair”, a nightclub, has a lot more to do with the 90’s than with year 2000. Nevertheless, had these scenes been played out well, the odd choices wouldn’t have fatally harmed the movie .
But, the truth is, for more than the obvious reasons, Hurley’s devil was the only character that carried our interest even slightly. In the first movie, the devil provided a very tempting picture of Hell, if for no other reason, to distract Dudley Moore from the true nature of his pact, offering up, among other tasty treats, Racquel Welch. Hurley’s devil can offer nothing more inviting than a room full of people slapping Frasier on the back and chanting his name like he had just hit the winning homerun at the company softball game.
In the first film, Moore’s character was a loser, but very much due to his performance, he was an endearing character. Frasier’s character is annoying, unaware and a little too eager to trade his soul for a date with a girl he has never even really met. A girl, that in every scene proves herself to be nothing more than a brainless tramp.
Which brings me to my final complaint. This new telling comes to an end so empty, it occurred to me that Frasier may have been better off in Hell.
The first movie centered around the fact that the loser pinned the whole idea of being content and successful on being with the girl of his dreams. The irony was, of course, that the girl actually liked him as he was, a pathetic fry cook. In Ramis’ version this irony is replaced by the following ridiculous scenario:
(1) the girl doesn’t even know he exists
(2) when, after learning his life-lessons, Frasier has the courage to approach her, she rejects him
(3) to manufacture a happy-ending, the filmaker’s have Frasier meet a girl that looks just like the girl of his dreams. If that ain’t cold and unfulfilling, than what is????
Did I mention how great Hurley looked?