Bad Movie Thursday: Bewitched

Year released: 2005
Directed by: Nora Ephron
Stars: Nicole Kidman; Will Farrell; Shirley MacLaine; Michael Caine and a whole bunch of other people you know like Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 25%; Audience 28%

How long we lasted: 23 minutes.

The idea was not exactly to watch a bad movie. The idea, formed by our 18-year-old daughter Elizabeth, was to pair a 1960s housewife meal (she made brisket and potatoes au gratin) and a 1960s housewife movie.

See, ever since this craziness began, one of the things we have been doing for sanity’s sake is trying to perfectly pair dinner and a movie together. On the first night, we made a Godfather spaghetti sauce (“A little red wine!” Clemenza said) and watched The Godfather, the first viewing for our 15-year-old daughter Katie. It was great, though I will say the only version we could find was Francis Ford Coppola’s director’s cut which adds a few unnecessary minutes to a movie that — and I say this with the deepest love, it is after all one of my five favorite movies ever — long enough.

*On my night, we ate hot dogs, popcorn and shelled peanuts and watched “A League of Their Own.” I could not recommend this more.

In any case, Elizabeth thought it would be fun to cook all day and then for us to watch some Bewitched television episodes, which goes against the spirit of this pair a mean and a movie idea.

Then I said, “Wait, isn’t there a terrible Bewitched movie?”

With that, everyone decided it would be fun to watch the terrible Bewitched movie.

Were we right? Well, I’ll get that.

Before we get to the movie, though, I should make an announcement: Based on Bewitched, we as a family decided that we are now instituting Bad Movie Thursday into our schedules until further notice.

Here are the rules of Bad Movie Thursday.

  1. Every Thursday we as a family will watch a bad movie, roughly in the 25% or below range on Rotten Tomatoes.

  2. It has to be a movie with some ambition, meaning there needs to be a couple of stars in it, maybe a well-known director.

  3. It needs to have, at least the potential, of being a “fun” bad movie. That is to say that some depressing bad movie like “Persecuted,” about an evangelist getting framed for murder would not qualify. It has to have a CHANCE to be so bad it’s good, which means it probably needs to be a comedy.

  4. We will watch the movie for as long as we can bear to watch it.

I assume that I don’t need to tell you about the television show Bewitched, but I’ll give you a quick primer. It ran EIGHT seasons from 1964 to 1972, and it was about a witch named Samantha, played by Elizabeth Montgomery, who married a non-magical advertising man named Darrin, played by Dick York and, later, by Dick Sargent.

This Dick for Dick move was the most absurd in television history. Dick York and Dick Sargent looked absolutely nothing alike, I mean NOTHING alike. There is something surreal about the way the show just goes on with the second Darrin as if nothing’s going on, as if you’re the one going crazy.

In any case, the movie Bewitched is not, despite what you might hope, just a goofy remake of Bewitched. That might have had a chance at being so bad it’s good, the way the Flintstone movie did.*

*I admit, I have not seen The Flintstones in more than 20 years so it’s possible that I’m misremembering it as so bad it’s good. Maybe that’s our next choice.

No, instead, it is a story about making a remake of the television show but — and here’s the big joke — they mistakenly cast a REAL WITCH to play Samantha. I have no earthly idea why this decision was made. I mean if you’re going to make a remake of Bewitched, why not just lean in. I mean, you’re making Bewitched for crying out loud, you can probably leave artistic aspirations behind at that point.

You might think this plot is ridiculous. Unfortunately, it isn’t. You WANT a movie plot for Bewitched about a real witch playing a fictional witch to be ridiculous. Instead, it’s … exhausted is the better word. It’s like they made a pretty funny trailer, and that was OK, and then they had to turn that into a movie, and nobody had any idea how to do that. So they decided at some point, “Yeah, let’s just film something.”

I love every actor in this movie. And I didn’t like ANY OF THEM in this movie. That’s an amazing trick to pull off. Nicole Kidman who is so awesome turns off every part of herself and plays the witch who doesn’t understand how anything in the real world works (one of the jokes is that she didn’t watch Bewitched when she was young because “It’s insulting to our kind”). Michael Caine plays her father because apparently Michael Caine would play YOUR father if you needed him for your home movie.

I’m told Shirley MacLaine plays Samantha’s mother Eudora, a key figure on the old TV show, but I couldn’t say so for sure because we just didn’t make it that far.

And then there’s Will Farrell. God, I love Will Farrell. I think he’s one of the funniest people in the entire world and has been for two decades. So what happened? Farrell plays a nearly-washed up obnoxious actor with an insane ego which you would think would be right in his wheelhouse, but there was nothing in the character for him to hold on to, nothing that gave him any chance to bring joy. He wasn’t fun to hate, and there wasn’t anything about him to like, and 23 minutes into the movie the girls — Elizabeth, Katie and my wife Margo — shut the movie down, and that was that.*

*Katie actually said she COULD have kept watching but preferred to stop.

One of the things that we hope to unravel in this Bad Movie Thursday experiment is what makes something so bad it’s good. I think an underrated part of the alchemy is that the movie projects it was fun to make. There is unbridled happiness that comes from watching people having fun.

I got no sense at all that Bewitched was fun to make. I could be wrong, maybe it was a blast, but it sure seemed that behind the eyes of every actor you could sense a thought bubble that said: “Wow, this isn’t any good, is it? Why are we doing this, again?”

Bewitched final verdict: So bad it’s unwatchable.