To those of us who fully intended to marry Samantha Stevens when we grew up (not sure what we planned to do with Darrin), "Bewitched" wasn't just a television show, it was a veritable love-in. What can I say, the woman had it goin' on. Only later would we learn that Samantha, the friendly witch who just wanted to be a suburban housewife, was a pre-feminist icon, forswearing her special powers for the sake of her husband's career. (Talk about your feminine mystique.) The thing is, we liked her special powers, thought they might come in real handy someday. And we liked that cute little twickle-twickle thing she did with her nose. Pure magic.
What I hadn't realized about "Bewitched" until I caught a few episodes on the recent TBS marathon was how good the show was, especially in the early years. Noel Coward himself might have written some of those lines, and the tag team of Agnes Morehead and Paul Lynde was a hoot and a half ' gay icons before anyone knew about gay icons. So let's just say I went to Nora Ephron's Bewitched with a certain amount of trepidation. It's not like we're dealing with a sacred text here or anything, but I'd hoped that Ephron, who wrote the script with her sister Delia, would at least capture the spirit of the TV show. And I think she tried. But I also think she failed.
The premise has promise: An actual witch (Nicole Kidman) gets hired to play Samantha in a revival of the series, which opens up all sorts of show-within-the-show possibilities. And in a twist that had comic potential, Will Ferrell plays a downwardly mobile movie actor who all but insists that the new show be called "Darrin." But Ephron may have signed up for more than she could deliver by putting this rather standard sitcom through the postmod wringer. And she can't seem to find a way to ground the hilarity, which, alas, fails to ensue. The movie itself seems set in TV Land, where everything's as bright and shiny ' and weightless ' as a pixel.
To its credit, the old TV show had some ballast; husbands did actually head off to the city, leaving their wives stranded in suburbia. For that the Ephrons have substituted a critique of contemporary Hollywood, with Ferrell throwing everything he's got at Jack, a self-absorbed star with little talent. But why have they made Kidman's Isabel such a nincompoop, so oblivious to the very world she seeks to join? If you ask me, Kidman's miscast in a role that should have gone to a warmer actress ' Jennifer Aniston, perhaps. What was so appealing about Elizabeth Montgomery was that she seemed down to earth. Kidman, in comparison, is off in the clouds somewhere.