Main cast: Elizabeth Hurley (The Devil), Brendan Fraser (Elliot Richards), Orlando Jones (Daniel/Dan/Danny/Esteban/Beach Jock/Lamar Garrett/Dr Ngegitigegitibaba), Paul Adelstein (Bob/Roberto/Beach Jock/Bob Bob), and Frances O’Connor (Alison Gardner)
Director: Harold Ramis
When Harold Ramis is good (Analyze This, Ghostbusters 2), he is really, really excellent. When he is bad (Multiplicity), he is excruciatingly bad. Thankfully, with this remake – or maybe complete revamp is more accurate a term – of 1967’s Bedazzled is absolutely charming thanks to his superb comedic timing, great soundtrack, and perfect chemistry between Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley.
Elliot Richards is a doormat loser – and Mr Fraser uses his enthusiastic, almost rubbery facial features to drive that home – and he is in love with Alison Gardner, who doesn’t even know that this man exists. Mocked by his peers (“pathetic”), looked down by his superiors, and very, very lonely, he wished aloud that he will “give anything to have her in my life”.
In an explosion of snooker balls, emerges the Devil who then proceeds to grant Elliot seven wishes in return for his soul. Only soon Elliot learns that wishing may not be as fun as Aladdin makes it out to be.
Bedazzled works because while Ms Hurley is very restrained yet effective as a seductive Devil, Mr Fraser isn’t afraid to let loose. I always feel that he is an unappreciated comedian, and he really shines here as he takes on his alter-ego roles as a multilingual Colombian drug lord, an oversensitive pansy, a charming smooth talker, and a godawful dense basketball player. Yet at the same time, Elliot Richards strikes a chord in me. His loneliness seems real, painfully so. The moment where as an illusion, he watches as Alison walks right through him, his face a mix of rapture and wistfulness, is sublime indeed. As is his face when he realize that maybe, maybe if he wished right, Alison would be his.
And Brendan Fraser is cute. I admit that doesn’t hurt too.
But what gives Bedazzled substance, elevating it from being a mere pedestrian comedy of errors, is its earnest philosophy that appeals even to jaded old me. It doesn’t preach too hard, but it wins me over with the message that sometimes, wishing isn’t good enough for this world. It’s how we live life with what we have that counts. A beautiful irony too is presented in the allusion that maybe God and the Devil are allies, working together to teach mankind the true meaning of life, and that the Devil is Elliot’s best friend that he has ever had.
This movie isn’t high art or deep philosophical stuff. But when it entertains as well as leaves me smiling and warm inside, and it makes me believe that yes, maybe being cynical isn’t the way to live, I believe this movie is a winner where I’m concerned. It isn’t just wishing, it’s how we live with what we have. Amen to that.