The formula for transferring TV shows to the big screen is pretty much set in stone by now. Snap up the rights, round up a few lower-tier A-listers with a passing resemblance to the original cast (Ben Stiller is David Starsky!), pop into Plots-R-Us, put your faith in the almighty god of brand recognition, then tune out the snide reviews and wait for the nostalgia boom to kick in at the box office. Okay, its hit and miss Charlies Angels 2, anyone? but certainly less risky than doing something, hush-our-mouths, original. And in the rare instances where system-bucking does occur (Josie And The Pussycats, for instance: a throwaway Saturday morning cartoon elevated to wicked pop-culture satire) the financial returns have been predictably dire.
We should be happy, then, that writer-director Nora Ephron throws the dog-eared playbook defiantly out the window with her adaptation of beloved re-run fodder Bewitched. In essence
its a prolonged meta-joke on the whole recycling trend itself, involving a narcissistic movie star (Will Ferrell) attempting to revive his flagging career via a remake of the classic sit-com and inadvertently casting a real witch (Kidman) in the process. Great idea. The trouble is, if there was ever a TV show begging for straight treatment, its Bewitched. A charming, evergreen treat, itself a coy lift from subversive, gay-coded play Bell, Book And Candle, it was kitschy high concept personified: suburbanite everyman marries a going-straight witch. Adorable hijinks ensue. So while you can admire Ephrons chutzpah, its less easy to like her movie, which simply tries far too hard.
The same can be said of Ferrell who takes his usually infallible shtick to uncomfortably manic levels. Still, its not all bad: Kidman is delicious, all wide-eyed and breathy, dithering at the prospect of her new life in the real world. And it does have its moments
a swoony sequence where Ferrell and Kidman fall in love, larking about on a deserted soundstage; Ferrell wailing, Am I going to get pregnant? when Kidman finally comes clean. But its too clever for its own good and, with apologies for hitting a sitter, the magic just isnt there.