Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bewitched! (2005)

The world offers many disturbing topics worthy of concern these days. I'm choosing to put nuclear proliferation on my mind's back burner for the time being so that I can focus instead on whether or not the retooling of Bewitched for the big-screen will be worth seeing. There are at least three high hurdles to overcome.

1. Director Nora Ephron. I know "Sleepless in Seattle" and "When Harry Met Sally" were charming, but did you see "You've Got Mail"? And how about the incredibly bad "Hanging Up?" (I am slow to admit that I saw both!) I believe Delia Ephron's horrible writing could have been the culprit on these projects and she's getting credit for writing Bewitched, too. In a strange twist, however, Adam McKay who wrote for Will Ferrill's "Anchorman" and "Old School" is also involved. No Shakespearean masterpieces these, but they are campy, and that is just what Dr. Bombay would prescribe for the schmaltz hangover an Ephron-only script might produce. Meg Ryan-worshiper meets Ron Burgundy--could be interesting.

2. TV-show to Big-screen remakes. These hardly ever work. The one inspired exception that I can think of is "The Brady Bunch Movie", in which pop culture postmodernism ignored chronological syntax in order to contextualize the "ideal" family within a tainted world. The result was sophomoric sophistication at its best.

3. There are no good-humored cultural jabs in our society right now. In the 60s and 70s, television used humor to poke fun at conservative crumudgeons--see Darin Stephens' entire family, Gladys Kravitz, and later Archie Bunker and George Jefferson. Our culture isn't much on finding humorous sides to debates these days. I'll be surprised if the subtle, but highly prevelant sub-text of confronting oppression gets much attention in the Bewitched remake. If not, the movie may be an accurate reflection of our culture's current proclivities, but it will lack a key spark that made the original series work.

Why it Might Work:

1. Nicole Kidman's supernatural hair and frame. She would look otherworldy on a catwalk in Milan. Can she look down home enough to seem very human at the same time? With the right make-up artist she can. See "The Hours."

2. Casting. Never a sure thing. Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin and Dabney Coleman couldn't save the remake of the Beverly Hillbillies (to my complete dismay--I love the BH as much as Bewitched). Still I'm intrigued by the thought of seeing a movie where Amy Sedaris (Strangers with Candy) as Gladys Kravitz shows up alongside Joan Plowright (Enchanted April) as Aunt Clara. Could have the same effect as distinguished actress Agnes Moorehead working with Paul Lynde in the original series. And I would be happy hearing Stephen Colbert (The Daily Show) read a soup can label.

What it Will Need in Order to Work:

1. Character chemistry--all of those great stars have to click and not get in each others' way. They need to look like they are having fun and not working from an overwrought script.

2. Pointed, but not sullen sense of humor (eek--when has Ephron pulled this off?)

3. Tiny bit of darkness

4. Physical comedy (Ferrill is a modern master in this area)

5. Good set design--in the series Darin's office was cool, bachelor modern and their house was fashionable and comfortable Colonial Revival. All of the sets were places where I would want to see myself (unlike the kind of dark garagey feel of the Partridge Family home, which relied solely on Shirley Jones' million watt smile and Susan Dey's shiny hair for lighting).

6. Great costumes, makeup and lighting. Uplights were a sure hint you were in the supernatural realm in Bewitched, and I'm convinced a drag queen dressed Agnes Moorehead's Endora every day. Her caftans were almost another cast of characters. And that hair!

7. Mod sensibility. The new movie shouldn't try to recapture the feel of the 60s and early 70s, but perhaps it can grab a little of what made the original Bewitched work so well, namely that the hip and progressive world of Samantha's family danced on the rim of conventional society with a matrixy and somewhat dismissive view of it.

8. Insight without insult. Samantha, for the most part, did not look down on the mortals that surrounded her, unless they presented themselves as better than her.

If you think I'm geeking out over Bewitched in THIS post, take a look at my October 28, 2004 entry about the cultural impact of the original series called The Chiffon's Too Crinkly.


Anonymous jennie said...

I loved You've Got Mail. Could watch it over and over again. Maybe I'm just a sucker for romantic comedies??
I enjoyed this post.
I think I'll be watching the movie simply because of Will Ferrell. He's J's hero. We recently got Best of Will Ferrell on SNL and it was great...especially the cow bell skit. :)

6:53 AM  
Blogger Troy said...

I got a fever--and the only prescription, is more cow bell.

Our other SNL-BWF favorites--

Harry Cary: "Hey, what's your favorite planet? Mine's Neptune."

And the "audition" special feature where Will Farrell is acting like a cat playing with a toy.

12:47 PM  

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