American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
One of the many areas in which I am spectacularly ill-informed is prime-time television. You would be amazed at the numbers of sitcoms I have never seen, not even once. When you see 500 movies a year you don't have a lot of left over yearning for watching television. In the evenings, you involve yourself in more human pursuits. On TV you watch the news, talk shows or old movies. You don't watch sports unless your team is in the finals. You can sense I am edging up to the admission that I have never seen a single episode of "Bewitched." I knew it existed, however, because of my reading.
That makes me well-prepared to review the new movie "Bewitched," since I have nothing to compare it with and have to take it on its own terms. It is tolerably entertaining. Many of its parts work, although not together. Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman are funny and likable, but they're in a plot that doesn't allow them to aim for the same ending with the same reason. It's one of those movies where you smile and laugh and are reasonably entertained, but you get no sense of a mighty enterprise sweeping you along with its comedic force. There is not a movie here. Just scenes in search of one.
The joke is this: Will Ferrell plays Jack Wyatt, a movie star whose career has hit bottom. Sales of his last DVD: zero. In desperation, he turns to television and finds himself considered for a starring role in a revival of "Bewitched." He will play the Darrin role. At least that's what everyone says. I assume Darrin was a character on the original show. I know (from my reading) that the show's interest centered on Samantha, who was played by Elizabeth Montgomery. I know from the movie that Samantha had a way of twitching her nose that was very special, and that they can't find an actress with twitchability until Jack spots Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman) in Book Soup on Sunset.
He insists on using her in the role because (a) he wants a complete unknown, so he'll get all the attention, (b) the twitch, and (c) because already he is falling in love with her. What he doesn't realize, oh, delicious irony, is that Isabel is in fact a real witch. She has however just decided to move to the Valley, get a house with a VW bug in the garage, live a normal life, and find a guy who loves her for herself and not because she put a hex on him. Her father (Michael Caine) warns her that this dream is not possible, and indeed she has a lot of trouble giving up witchcraft. It's so tempting to charge your purchases on a tarot card.