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by: James Berardinelli

From director Harold Ramis, the man behind such well-liked laugh-generating vehicles as Caddyshack and Groundhog Day, comes Bedazzled, a supposed comedy that doubles as a study in mediocrity. Not only is this film persistently unfunny, but it is consistently uninvolving. To be fair to Ramis, I'm willing to admit that Bedazzled isn't incompetently made - it's just not very entertaining. This is the kind of unremarkable production that will stay with the average viewer for a period of about five seconds after he or she exits the theater. This movie has no staying power, and, outside of Brendan Fraser's easygoing charm, little to recommend it.

Based on a lighthearted 1967 comedy starring Dudley Moore, Bedazzled is set in modern-day San Francisco, where we meet Elliot (Fraser), a "sad, desperate, pathetic loser." We all know someone like Elliot - a harmless person with no social skills who works too hard to ingratiate himself with people and ends up being despised as a result. Elliot is infatuated from afar with one his co-workers, a woman named Allison (Frances O'Connor, looking like a young Barbara Hershey), whom he considers to be unapproachable - until he has an encounter with a sexy, well-dressed vamp who claims to be the Devil (Elizabeth Hurley). In exchange for his soul, Elliot will be granted seven wishes, any one of which could unite him with Allison. It's a deal he can't refuse, but the wishes don't turn out the way he expects, and he quickly learns the down sides associated with being rich and powerful, a star basketball player, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and the President of the United States.

Bedazzled is devoid of any sort of tension, regardless of whether it's dramatic, comedic, or romantic. The film lumbers aimlessly from one skit to another. Personalities change so frequently that it's difficult to get a sense of character for any of the individuals. There isn't just one Elliot - there are about seven of them, and they don't seem to be the same person. The only reason we end up caring about Elliot at all is because Fraser is such a likable actor. Without his appeal, Bedazzled would have been an exercise in tedium.

As the Devil, Elizabeth Hurley is clearly enjoying herself. In fact, it appears that she's having more fun playing the part than we're having watching her. Sure, she looks great (doesn't she always?) and there are times when she sinks her teeth into the role with great relish, but, on the whole, she's not a very credible Lucifer. She doesn't find the right tone and her timing is occasionally off. She can't seem to decide whether it's better to act sweet and seductive or to strut her way through the film. Even in a comedy, the Devil needs more than cleavage and a great set of gams.

The third member of the lead acting trio, Frances O'Connor (Fanny in the recent Mansfield Park), is easily the least interesting. Of course, since she's stuck in the thankless role of the personality-deprived love interest, this is hardly surprising. However, O'Connor consistently fails to make us notice her. More often than not, she simply fades into the background for much of the scene, emerging only when she's required to deliver a line of two of dialogue. The film probably would have worked better if there was some evidence of chemistry between O'Connor and Fraser, but, even at its most romantic, their interaction is clinical.

Bedazzled is a series of assembled miscalculations. Things that Ramis thinks are funny - such as sweat pouring in rivulets off a basketball player's face - don't work, and the saccharine sweet ending strikes the wrong note. Of course, one could argue that the conclusion (complete with the moral that everyone should be comfortable with who they are) is appropriate for this kind of bland material, and I suppose there's some validity to that. The bulk of Bedazzled lacks an


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