"Bedazzled", the latest comedy from "Analyze This" director Harold Ramis, is a remake of the 1967 British film of the same name. However, instead of Dudley Moore as an unlucky-in-love short order cook and Peter Cook as the Devil that grants him the power to change his life, Ramis casts the affable Brendan Fraser ("The Mummy") in the Moore role, and former supermodel Elizabeth Hurley ("Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery") as the 'Princess of Darkness'. And though "Bedazzled" 2.0 stumbles in a number of places, it still manages to be a somewhat enjoyable time-waster, mainly on the strength of Fraser's charm and Hurley's 'devilish' enthusiasm.
Meet Elliot Richards (Fraser)-- a geeky technical support representative that everyone in the office goes out of his or her way to avoid. Elliot also happens to be in love with Alison Gardner (Frances O'Connor of "Mansfield Park"), a fetching coworker that he has admired from afar for the past four years. But when his latest attempt to strike up a conversation with her ends in failure (not to mention embarrassment), he silently declares to God that he would give anything to have Alison in his life.
Almost immediately, Elliot receives his answer-- only not from God. Instead, the Devil (Hurley), a sexy seductress dressed to kill, appears and offers Elliot seven wishes in exchange for his soul. Of course, Elliot is skeptical at first, but once the Devil shows him the possibilities of being united with Alison, Elliot signs on the dotted line. Unfortunately, Elliot's poorly-phrased wishes don't work out quite the way he expects them to. For example, his wish to be 'rich and powerful' turns him into a Colombian drug lord, while his desire to become a star athlete turns him into a basketball player with diminished mental faculties. And with every wish made, it seems that being united with the love of his life becomes increasingly unlikely.
"Bedazzled" is not a 'laugh-out-loud' sort of comedy-- it is more the kind of movie that will give you a silly grin across your face for most of the running time, with the occasional bit of breakthrough hilarity. The first half of the film is clearly the stronger one, with a number of truly memorable scenes-- Elliot's futile attempts to socialize with his coworkers (and their reactions to his overeager style), his initial meeting with the Devil, and his first wish. Unfortunately, as the film drags on and Elliot continues to use up his wishes, the film begins to lose steam as the story degenerates into a series of relatively mirthless skits, capped off by a flat deus ex machina ending.
Part of the problem is that the romantic interest is not that interesting, making it difficult to become engaged in Elliot's quest to win her heart. Other than a few obligatory lines, the Alison character isn't given much of a personality or that much to do to, thereby lessening the emotional impact of Elliot's futile attempts to be united with her. In contrast, those that can recall Ramis' "Groundhog Day" will remember how Andie McDowell's absorbing and likable character made the audience want to see Bill Murray's character succeed.
Fortunately, "Bedazzled" is saved by the performances of its two leads. Fraser, who has made a career out of playing easygoing and likable characters, is right at home in the role of Elliot Richards. He brings a giddy earnestness to the role, which proves to be effective as Elliot gleefully discovers the power of his wishes, such as when he learns that his first wish has also given him the ability to speak Spanish fluently. If you enjoyed Fraser's child-like charm in "Blast from the Past", "George of the Jungle", and "Airheads", then you will certainly enjoy the work that he does in "Bedazzled". Hurley, as a devil in a red dress, is both malicious and delicious, and she seems to be having almost as much fun as Al Pacino did in "The Devil's Own". She brings the right level of mischief and irreverence to the role, which complements the modern-day sensibility that permeates throughout the entire film. And she certainly looks smashing in the Deena Appel-designed outfits.
In addition, the film does make an interesting point near the end about the nature of good and evil, which is almost as memorable as the revealing ending of the original 1967 film. Similar to the subtext in the science fiction classic "The Lathe of Heaven", Elliot's granting of seven wishes and how he chooses to wield such power becomes a reflection to how history has granted power to a chosen few, and how it has been used. As Elliot learns, good and evil are not ethereal and omnipresent entities that govern the order of the man; instead, they lie in the choices made by those who have the desire and ability to effect change, and the sometimes unforseen consequences of their actions. Not bad for a seemingly light-hearted high-concept comedy.
Overall, "Bedazzled" won't win any awards, but it should make for an enjoyable evening out. It's far from dazzling, but a few memorable moments, Brendan Fraser's delightful performance, and Elizabeth Hurley's over-the-top vamping will certainly make it easier to overlook the film's obvious flaws.