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Bedazzled Review

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Elliot Richards is a social misfit, lonely, romantically inept, mocked by his work colleagues and hopelessly in love with co-worker Alison Gardner. When the devil turns up and offers him seven wishes in return for his soul, Elliot accepts in order to snag the girl of his dreams.

★★★★★

Master screenwriter and all round grouch William Goldman once remarked that screenplays are all about structure, they're pieces of engineering rather than art; bridges rather than sculptures, if you will. It's a lesson that writer-director Harold Ramis obviously took to heart when he penned his 1993 comic masterpiece, Groundhog Day; in engineering terms it's near perfect, a positive Sydney Harbour Bridge of an achievement that withstands viewing after viewing without so much as a wobble. Unfortunately, Bedazzled is more like London's much-mocked Blade Of Light. It looks fantastic on paper, but once you're on it, it bounces you around for a while before throwing you off feeling slightly nauseous.

What Ramis' film does share with Groundhog Day is the element of repetition. Essentially a series of linked sketches, it has lonely, cubicle-bound technical support advisor Elliot Richards adopting various guises, courtesy of Beelzebub, in an attempt to woo love of his life, Alison. He becomes, among other archetypes: a Colombian drug baron (with an audacious ten minutes of the film conducted in Spanish with subtitles); a sensitive "new man" who has difficulty looking at the sunset without bursting into tears; and an underendowed basketball star. Inevitably in each instance, Lucifer throws a curve ball and things don't work out. When he asks to be rich, sophisticated and well-endowed, he also happens to be gay. When he's a sensitive guy, she turns out to prefer a bit of rough. And so on.

There are enough genuinely funny moments in Bedazzled to keep you gently amused, and certainly more than its inspiration, the Peter Cook/Dudley Moore movie of 1967, can boast. Brendan Fraser, who's been threatening to blossom for a while now, is a comic revelation, fashioning six utterly different riffs on his geekish central character and showing a facility for a more sophisticated brand of comedy than he hinted at with the cute-but-dumb lug act he employed in California Man (1992), George Of The Jungle (1997) and Blast From The Past (1999). Elizabeth Hurley is as one-dimensional as ever, but not enough to do any real damage.

What does hobble the movie is an ending which drives straight off a cliff. While in Groundhog Day the central character can credibly be seen to have "learned something" from the constant repetition by the end of the movie, here Ramis tries the same trick and it simply doesn't come off. There is absolutely no-reason for Fraser's character's transformation and the conclusion is simply baffling. Not exactly dazzling, then, but bright enough to deserve a few hours of your time.

A neat idea transformed into a light, enjoyable, if hardly world -shattering, confection. It is most notable for the flourishing of Brendan Fraser as a bona fide comedic talent. But very little else.

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