Bedazzled

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The problem with “Bedazzled” is that even if you accept its age-old premise — guy makes deal with the devil but is tricked out of getting what he wants — there’s still too much other stupid stuff to get in the way of ever really enjoying the thing.

Brendan Fraser plays Elliot, a socially retarded but very nice guy who is in love with Alison (Frances O’Connor), a co-worker whom he has lusted after for four years but has never really spoken to.

One night he casually observes that he would give anything to have her in his life — and poof, the Devil (Elizabeth Hurley), looking far sexier than the Bible would have you believe, shows up. Apparently doing double-duty as a lamp genie, she offers Elliot seven wishes in exchange for his soul. Elliot, who we’re led to believe is a smart guy (hence the nerdiness), stupidly signs the contract.

His first wish? To be married to Alison, and to be rich and powerful. But wouldn’t you know it? The Devil meets his requests exactly, making him a very successful Colombian drug lord who is married to Alison, sure enough. Too bad he didn’t say anything about Alison being in love with him….

So he gets out of that scenario and comes back, this time wishing for something different, only to have it also screwed up by the Devil’s whimsical, letter-of-the-law wish-granting. So he wishes for yet a third thing, and then a fourth thing, and on and on and on.

Any sane individual would not go to such extraordinary lengths for a woman he’s never really met before. But even if he did, he would almost certainly think a little more clearly before making the next wish. Me, I’d go home and write up the most carefully worded, legally correct wish statement I could think of, ensuring there was no way Old Scratch could use it against me to make it into a nightmare. Sure, she’d probably still find a way — but at least I’d have tried. Elliot keeps coming back from his bad wishes and making new ones 10 seconds later.

It’s that paralyzingly stupid behavior that makes a film like this hard to enjoy. The fact that he has seven wishes just means we’re going to have to watch his life get screwed up in predictable ways seven different times before he somehow gets out of the contract. (If the film ended with his soul actually becoming property of the Devil, and his enduring an eternity in hell — now THAT would be an interesting movie.)

Fraser is all over the place with the Elliot character. He’s socially inept and naive, yet manages to get off a few sarcastic rejoinders in his conversations with the Evil One. He’s nerdy, but not very bright; friendly, but annoying; funny, but not.

Hurley seems to be having fun as the Devil, and my goodness, she does look fetching. She alone might make it worth watching, but maybe not.

There are a few laughs in the film, and it’s not grating on the nerves. It’s a slight, meaningless little movie that drags on too long but provides a medium amount of entertainment. It’s not bad enough to belong in hell — but I’ll be damned (get it?) if it’s going to get any higher than purgatory.

C- (; PG-13, scattered profanities, sexual innuendo,.)

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