Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:33 - Released 10/20/00

I would rate Bedazzled as sort of the cinematic equivalent to cheese curls: lightweight, fluffy, insubstantial, but a guilty pleasure nonetheless. That could be said for most of Brendan Fraser's films of late; Fraser has not exactly tried to challenge Olivier, but he's remarkably talented in his light, fluffy way, and his recent output has been fun if not life-changing. Opposite Fraser is Elizabeth Hurley, the dancer-turned-Estee Lauder spokesperson-turned-actress most recently known for appearing in the Austin Powers films. Hurley looks fabulous throughout the film, of course, in a fetching wardrobe of red and black (except for one notable exception); if there were ever a reason for being drawn to wicked ways, she's it. The film, a remake of the 1967 version starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, is written and directed by Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, Analyze This), with writing assistance from Larry Gelbart and Peter Tolan, based on the '67 Cook/Moore screenplay.

Fraser's role of Elliot Edwards is just the kind of geeky-but-nice guy he's played in films like Blast From The Past, The Mummy, and Dudley Do-Right; he's identified early on as a lonely, desperate, eager-to-please doormat. Openly ridiculed by his co-workers at Synedyne, a computer support facility where scores of cubicles house headset-clad phone operators ready to assist customers with their computer problems, Elliot tries to fit in and dreams of scoring a date with the beautiful Allison Carpenter (Frances O'Connor), who, although she works at the same office, doesn't know he exists. After one particularly pathetic scene in the local bar, Elliot is visited by none other than Satan herself (Hurley), who promises to turn his sad life around. In exchange for the mere act of signing over his soul (which, she says, most people don't even miss), Elliot may have not one, not three, but seven wishes. After some agonizing and perusing the several-inches-thick contract, Elliot agrees, mainly because the devil reminds him that with the right wishing strategy, he could make Allison his own.

Elliot's first wish is to be rich, powerful, and married to Allison; although this seems like a fool-proof plan, being a Columbian drug lord with an estranged wife is not exactly what he had in mind. As he tries to refine the stipulations of his wishes, he goes through several permutations, including a simpering romantic, a thick-headed sports star, and a pretentious socialite, but none of them really work out, for the most part because Satan is trying intentionally to bugger up his plans. Soon Elliot is out of wishes and no closer to happiness nor to Allison.

The two main things that make this film enjoyable are Fraser's various characterizations/make-up jobs, which usually involve a dental prosthesis and a wig, and Hurley's wardrobe changes. The short scenes devoted to his wishes all have drastically different settings, temporal as well as physical, all involve O'Connor, who appears as "Allison" in her own diverse series of characterizations, and also usually include Elliot's co-workers in key supporting roles. The performances of Fraser, Hurley, and O'Connor, while not called on for anything but the broadest stereotypes, are fun and engaging, the script breezy and carefree. So what can I say? It's not going to win any awards, but...well, if you like cheese curls, you'll understand. ****

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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