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The devil's new clothes: Hurley's wardrobe is a necessary distraction in scattered 'Bedazzled'

Friday, October 20, 2000

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The only things dazzling about "Bedazzled" are Elizabeth Hurley's wardrobe -- from the costumer who designed way-out fashions for "Austin Powers" -- and Brendan Fraser's makeup and prosthetics. His nose changes shape, he gains and loses freckles, teeth, hair of many colors, beards and even height.


Rating: PG-13 for sex-related humor, language and some drug content.

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley.

Director: Harold Ramis

Web site: www.bedazzled

Critics Call: 2 stars


"Bedazzled" is an update of the 1967 Stanley Donen film of the same name starring Dudley Moore as a suicidal cook smitten with a leggy waitress at the bar where he works. When the devil (Peter Cook) appears offering him seven wishes in exchange for his soul, he bites.

This time, Hurley is the devil, often in a skintight red dress, and Fraser is Elliot Richards, a lonely and socially inept San Francisco doofus who works in technical support for a software company. That means he toils in Hollywood's idea of hell and our idea of standard-issue: A large room sliced up into cubicles dominated by computers and telephones.

Elliot carries photos of his stereo speakers and actually thinks his scornful co-workers are interested in them. If he weren't so clueless and borderline obnoxious, he would be a very sad figure.

Most of all, Elliot is like a lovesick puppy when it comes to a pretty colleague named Alison (Frances O'Connor) who doesn't even recognize him. After an encounter in a bar, he mutters, "Dear God, I would give anything to have that girl in my life."

But it's the devil who responds. She promises him seven wishes in return for his soul. He just has to sign a contract in which he is "hereafter known as the damned."

Wish No. 1: To be married to Alison, to be very rich and very powerful. Well, he gets that wish but not in the way he envisioned. He is married to Alison, but she's having an affair with another man. He is wealthy and powerful but he's also a Colombian drug lord.

And so the wishes go, even when he tries to be as specific as possible. He aims for suave and sophisticated, athletic and beloved, and in one especially funny transformation, ultra-sensitive. Alison and happiness remain elusive, though.

It's amusing to anticipate how Elliot's wishes will be perverted by the devil and to watch Hurley's outrageous costumes and Fraser's transformations. But that's about it.

"Bedazzled" stints on the story's religious underpinnings and the temptations that exist without Satan's assistance. It doesn't even put the software setting to good use. What if the devil were behind the Love Bug virus or the crash that happens just when you've finished your work?

Instead, "Bedazzled," from director Harold Ramis ("Analyze This," "Multiplicity"), plays like a series of stitched-together, uneven skits instead of a satisfying whole. Hurley is appropriately naughty and seductive as the devil and Fraser seems to be having a good time -- the goofier he looks, the more fun he has. See the scene in which he gains reddish hair, a sprinkling of freckles and an ability to weep over a glorious sunset.

By the end, though, you may feel more bamboozled than bedazzled.

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