Remaking films that have already established themselves as cult classics is usually a bad idea, but in some cases a film was so much a part of its era that an update almost makes sense. The original Bedazzled with its British Invasion references & overall '60s attitude looks dated; it's humor was so sharp for the time but has become a relic.
The original Bedazzled will always have a special place for those of us of a certain age. For my entire adult life, popsickles have been "ice lollies" because I first heard that term when Dudley Moore as Stanley Moon got his first wish from the Devil, but had to pay for it himself. As a teenager & even quite a bit later as an adult, I would reenact for friends the sequence in which Dudley dances around the devil singing his praises, then asks if it wouldn't be all right to trade places for a while. The story was as packed with memorable lines & notions, it simply rose above its own campiness & was all laughs & smiles beginning to end.
Also for those of us old enough to remember Peter & Dudley's stand-up routines together, Bedazzled was the primary lasting record of how funny they were together, & such a tragedy that Peter's personal troubles put an end to a duo, & only Dudley went on to a really successful solo film career.
The original version of this film has always remained something of a cult classic with a small devoted following, but for the masses, flawless though it was for its day, it is by now in portions dated. So an updated remake wasn't as bad an idea as for most lovingly-remembered films, & on paper at least it must have seemed an especially good idea if Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, Caddyshack was on board for new script & direction.
Unfortunately this overly slick remake is all noise & no substance. Without two good comic actors as mensch & devil, this remake never had a chance; the abysmality of the remake simply did not result in a Bedazzled for a newer generation.
The first few minutes of the film as Brendan Frasier plays a big loser of a mensch are the best part of the film, & he's a surprisingly good stand-in for a character created for & by Dudley Moore.
But then "the devil" appear , & the script very quickly goes all to hell, so to speak. Elisabeth Hurley is just not any good as a comic devil, just as Raquel Welsh in the original version, so suited to playing one of the seven sins, Lilian Lust, could by no means have stood in for Peter Cook. Yet Hurley's is exactly that miscasting; she is Raquel from the original, but in the wrong role. She tries & fails to be smart & sexy in a role that was intended to be cruel & funny. Indeed the very real cruelty of Peter Cook's devil is missing entirely from this fluffy remake.
I'm not even sure Brendan was that good a replacement for Dudley. Dudley was a funny looking little guy who possessed genuine sex appeal. But Brendan is a grinning Ken Doll; he can recreate Dudley's sex appeal with great ease, but it's not believable that a hunk with movie-star looks would be dismissed by all the world as a dork.
It was perhaps a good thing that the remake is only broadly related to the original & the new script does not saddle Liz & Brendon with attempting to duplicate Cook & Moore routines. But every change is a weak one. Dudley's Stanley stuck in a ridiculous job at Wimpy Burgers begins right off the bat rather amusing before even the first joke is tried; but Brendon's Elliot as a computer tech is not even a close parallel, & nothing particularly amusing about it.
Both films are episodic & come off like sketch comedy, but the remake is like watching a collection of Monty Python skits without any of the Pythons, but only some actors with relatively poor comic timing pretending to be the Pythons.
The thing is, this story originated as a vehicle for a comedy duo. Dudley's Stanley is so sweet & pathetic that every wish that turns awful is a sorrowful stab even while the viewer laughs. Peter's devil is so charming anyone would want him for a buddy, but being the devil he just can't help being a mean bastard instead of the good friend some part of him wants to be. Cook & Moore were experiencing something of the same relationship in their career together, thanks to Cook's alcoholism, & this probably fueled the underlying credibility of their take on the Faust legend. At all times they are just so obviously a classic comedy team, whereas in the remake their stand-ins are so obviously not comics, let alone a comedy team who started the project already knowing how to play off one another.
Brendan is capable of comedy & made a so-so replacement for Moore. But giving him Hurley as foil would be like taking Lewis & Martin & turning them into Jerry Lewis & Veronica Lake, or turning Abbot & Costello into Jessica Simpson & Lou Costello.
The original Bedazzled even if only a minor classic is forever memorable; in its own goofy way it is even thought-provoking. The remake has a few small laughs but is instantly forgettable. If there is anything good to be said of the remake it is only that it does not create any risk that the original shall be displaced.
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