The Baby Boom generation was the first to grow up watching television, and it seems there's no end to boomer nostalgia for the TV shows that tickled them when they were tots. "Bewitched" was one of the best-a popular 1960s sitcom which starred a beguiling Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha, a real witch with real magical powers, who wanted nothing more than to be ordinary, to settle down in an ordinary house with her very ordinary husband, Darrin. But Samantha always found it necessary to rely on sorcery to save the suburban housewife's day; she'd get that look on her face, and that twitch in her nose and-poof!-the burnt pot roast turned into a perfect cordon bleu.
Nicole Kidman certainly resembles Elizabeth Montgomery, and she can do a mean nose twitch. And, as unlikely as it seems for an actress of her caliber, she appears to enjoy playing Isabel Bigelow, a slightly ditzy real witch who wants nothing more than to be ordinary. However, as clever as Kidman is, she cannot make us believe a classy witch like Isabel would fall in love with a self-centered, almost subhuman goofball like Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell). Jack is the has-been actor who seeks to revive his career by playing Darrin in a new "Bewitched" TV series-but only if the emphasis is switched to make the loser Darrin a hero and the star of the show. Therefore, Jack decides, an unknown should be cast as Samantha. Enter Isabel, absentmindedly twitching her nose while shopping in a bookstore.
In fashioning this fantasy-within-a-fantasy, director Nora Ephron and her co-writing sister Delia manage to mix newly invented characters with some old ones taken directly from the TV series. Michael Caine shows up as Isabel's father, a male witch and suave ladykiller who pulls cute tricks like popping his face on the Jolly Green Giant-or replacing Paul Newman's mug on a bottle of salad dressing-so he can talk to his daughter while she's shopping for groceries. As Caine's romantic interest, Shirley MacLaine plays Iris, a veteran actress-and also a real witch-who gets the role of Sam's mother Endora on the new TV series.
The plot sounds more complicated than it is. And mostly, the premise works. As good as some of the gags are, however, they might have fallen flat if performed by lesser talents than Kidman, Ferrell, Caine, MacLaine and the rest of the top-notch cast. Among the standouts in supporting roles: Jason Schwartzman as Jack's overbearing agent, and Steve Carell and Carole Shelley as "Bewitched" mainstays Uncle Arthur and Aunt Clara.
Ferrell once again displays his knack for physical comedy-flopping that big body around in silly attempts to be graceful, screwing up that bland, small-eyed face in an A to Z range of wacko emotions. But Ferrell is not and never will be a romantic figure, so pairing him with Kidman, whose beauty and intelligence shine through even when she is being silly, can be jarring. And not in an amusing way. But because Ferrell is so darned funny sometimes, doing his dippy dervish thing, and Kidman is so darned cute in her blonde curls and flouncy skirts, why nitpick? Bewitched may not be a darned funny movie, but it has its moments.