Every generation deserves a good Faust retelling, and Bedazzled is not one. A remake of a 1967 film by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, this millennial version sees Elizabeth Hurley as the seductive Devil and Brendan Fraser as the hapless mortal who toys with eternal damnation. There is plenty of material to be mined, but the film trades philosophy for stunts, reserving the core of the story for the last ten minutes.
The movie instead relies on a repetitive circle of literal wish fulfillment. Elliot Richards (Fraser) is a socially awkward IT assistant, the kind of guy who tucks his sweater vest into his pants and doesn’t realize that his coworkers aren’t busy but just trying to avoid him. When another painful night of social rejection ends with a dismissal from Alison (Frances O’Connor), the woman of his dreams, he wishes aloud that he might be luckier in love. Out pops the Devil in all her slinky glory to help Elliot do just that. It’s not so much his happiness she has in mind though. She easily tempts him to sign away his soul in exchange for seven wishes. After bungling his first on a lousy McDonald’s order, he gets down to business, confident that he can finally find true love with Alison.
The film proceeds to cycle through Elliot’s wishes, all of which get thwarted in some way by the Devil. Seeing his low status amongst his coworkers, he desires wealth and power, which he gets in the form of a South American drug lord. When he wishes that Alison was his wife, he forgets to add love into the equation, and she cheats on him with a younger, more oiled up lover. Elliot picks up on the Devil’s game and learns to tweak his wishes but to no avail. He eventually gets what he wants when Alison can’t keep her hands off him, but he gets a few surprises himself that cause her to reconsider any sort of relationship.
Each wish is a chance for Elliot to grow, and Fraser shows some of the frustration that turns his character into a more generous person, but Elliot was never in need of a great transformation. He was just an eccentric guy desperate to make friends. If anyone needed a change of heart, it was his coworkers, and of course the Devil, who we’re never really sure what she wants to do with all those souls. The moral dilemma that the Faust story provides loses its potency with a tame, good-hearted protagonist and a goofy merry-go-round of wishes. Elliot’s imagined scenarios, some of which are a bit off color for 2016, skip along mostly for laughs until the game is up. Though Fraser and O’Connor are adept at switching up their roles and even Hurley manages to seduce with her perfect teeth and flawless skin, the movie is first, a mismatched battle of wits and second, a belated morality tale.
Prod: Trevor Albert, Harold Ramis
Dir: Harold Ramis
Writer: Larry Gelbart, Harold Ramis, Peter Tolan
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O’Connor, Orlando Jones, Paul Adelstein, Gabriel Casseus
Time: 93 min
Lang: English, some Spanish
Country: United States