Growing up I saw Harold Ramis’ remake before I saw Peter Cook’s original film Bedazzled (1967) directed by Stanley Donen. On second thought, the term “remake” doesn’t quite suit Ramis’ film. Ramis really just uses Cook’s script as a launching pad for his own brand of “feel good” gimmick oriented comedy. Where Cook, Donen and Dudley Moore go for the jugular Ramis appears content to settle for the safety of the familiar and the polite chuckle. The Bedazzled (2000) of my generation has little bite, plenty of heart, and practically no brains at all.
Bedazzled’s best moments are those between Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser) and Satan (Elizabeth Hurley). It isn’t that these scenes are any more amusing than the rest of the film, it’s more about the magnetism of these performers. Fraser gets really far on his warmth and charm, imbuing Richards with a heavy dose of the “all American everyman” type. Elizabeth Hurley is one of the great screen beauties with a terrific sensibility when it comes to comic timing and line delivery, making her a really inspired choice to play Satan. In fact, it’s Hurley who pretty much ends up stealing the entire film.
Putting aside some of the troubling and dated humor of Ramis’ film there really isn’t much left to discuss of interest save for one important thing: what is the point? Peter Cook’s update of Faust functions as a lampooning of male dominated society in the 1960s that is so successful that it remains one of the most influential movie comedies of all time. Ramis’ take on the same material has no center, no objective, and no discernible purpose. Every opportunity for critique or condemnation is seemingly bypassed intentionally for a cute moment of familiar romantic comedy fluff.
This negation of the spirit of both Faust and the original Bedazzled is actually pretty surprising given how apt Ramis can be at dark comedy. Groundhog Day (1993) and The Ice Harvest (2005) have some truly nihilistic tendencies that Ramis manages rather well. Yet Bedazzled is utterly void of any humorous cruelties. The only motivation I can think of that may have prompted Harold Ramis to make his Bedazzled is that he was attempting some sort of homage to the 1967 film.