Bedazzled review

You might say that Elizabeth Hurley made a Faustian pact with the media when she wore That Dress and shot to fame at the premiere of Four Weddings... in 1994. Yes, she's a model and certainly a well-paid one. But she's also an actress, a businesswoman and, as half of Simian Films, a movie producer, which reporters often forget. Ms Hurley must have cursed this injustice as she rummaged around for something to wear to the premiere of Notting Hill last year and - would you believe it? - found another That Dress hanging up in the wardrobe.

Hurley's manipulation of her own image plugs straight into the core of Bedazzled, in which she wears so many That Dresses that it's tempting to wonder if there isn't a whole team of That Dress designers banged up in a sweat shop somewhere. Dolled up to the nines, she plays Satan as an exaggeration of her much-publicised self, a saucy, teasing siren who picks up lonely office geek Elliot (Brendan Fraser) and wickedly exploits his insecurities to get what she wants: his soul. It's a nice idea, and Hurley gives the devil-woman concept a good shot, but there's a point at which this surprisingly good comedy reaches an impasse. Hurley's Beelzebub is suitably mischievous, scheming and tempting, but it's hard to imagine her inciting Armageddon.

Which is a good point at which to introduce comparisons with the 1967 original. As written by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, The Devil was a shabby fellow trying to weasel his way back into the Almighty's favour. It was a very British conceit, reflecting our seemingly endless fascination with failure as a sort of national sport. Transported to San Francisco, some of this hangdog charm has been lost. Director Harold Ramis has reworked the original so that only the central premise remains: Elliot has seven wishes that will make his life perfect before The Devil takes his soul. It would rob the film of its comic power to say exactly what those wishes are, but suffice to say that The Devil always finds a loophole in Elliot's naive thinking.

At its best, this gives Fraser room to come into his own. Having made his mark as a dependable hunky lunk, he shows an almost Carrey-esque versatility here, whether morphing into a wealthy South American businessman, a towering jock or a pretentious intellectual. Unfortunately, the script can't find enough work for him, and just at the point where we really start to root for Elliot, Ramis slams on the brakes with a lame climax. Still, it's a credit to Fraser's often brilliant performance that we care at all, and a measure of Ramis' thoughtful adaptation that the memory of the flawed original does remain respectfully intact. Peter Cook, RIP.

Although the nominal star is Elizabeth Hurley, the real revelation in this initially hilarious, uneven farce is the multi-faceted Brendan Fraser, showing flashes of out-there comic genius in a very demanding role. Ultimately, though, the script bails out on him.

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