Bedazzled On DVD

Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O'Connor, Orlando Jones, Miriam Shor, Brian Doyle-Murray. Directed by Harold Ramis. Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1. 93 minutes. 2000. Fox Home Entertainment 2000815. PG-13. $26.98.

Elliot (Brendan Fraser) is an office drone who seems to have a "KICK ME" sign taped permanently to his back. His dream is to win the love of Alison (Frances O'Connor), a co-worker who's never even noticed him. Nerds like Elliot can hardly hope to strike up a conversation with a real woman without some sort of divine intervention, so . . . enter the Devil (Elizabeth Hurley). This bombshell from below grants Elliot seven wishes, but winds up wreaking havoc on his life, as each wish turns out just a little different than he had imagined. His desire to be rich and powerful and loved by Alison, for example, results in his becoming a Colombian drug lord whose cartel is fracturing around him. It's recycled Twilight Zone with a comedic twist. The hapless Elliot never learns to tailor his wishes precisely enough that they don't bite him in the backside.

By creating a main character so unaware of the pitfalls of making wishes (an age-old plot device), the filmmakers have underestimated the audience's intelligence—a true sin. It doesn't take long for our sympathy for this buffoon to wane. The story's structure, however, which metamorphoses Elliot, Alison, and their small circle of co-workers every time he makes a new wish, is kind of fun, and tests the ranges of the actors involved, particularly Fraser's. In addition to the drug lord, he becomes a giant basketball star, an Alfred E. Newman look-alike, a self-centered author, and a soon-to-be-assassinated US President, among other personas. Hurley, on the other hand, is asked to slip in and out of male erotic fantasies, including being a short-skirted schoolteacher, a short-skirted meter maid, a short-skirted . . . you get the idea.

The script, co-written by Harold Ramis, has some witty dialogue, but the jokes and visual gags usually don't go far beyond the obvious. If it's light comedy you're after, this might have just the right, airy touch.

This Fox DVD, enhanced for 16:9 televisions, looks stunning and is rich in primary colors, especially bright reds. Contrast and clarity are excellent, resulting in good picture detail. And while the soundtrack doesn't give your surrounds much of a workout, it does have some occasionally interesting moments, particularly in the use of special aural effects when Elliot transitions from one "reality" to another.

This disc's package of extras rises above the ordinary, however. Bedazzled is the first feature film to be released on DVD with Nuon features, meaning it offers a greater level of interactivity when played on a Nuon-enhanced DVD player. [See the December 2000 issue ofSGHT for a review of the Samsung DVD-N2000 Nuon-enhanced DVD player.—Ed.] Nuon features include Gamma Zoom, which lets you zoom in at about a 20:1 ratio on selected scenes, in order to discover something new or an interesting production trick; Hyperslides, which pair pre-production renderings with descriptive text alongside the appropriate scene in the film; and an Elizabeth Hurley fashion show, which highlights 12 of the actress's costumes.

A pair of audio commentaries—one by Ramis, one by Hurley and producer Trevor Albert—give you more than you really need to know about the production. Ramis is laid-back, but this accomplished maker of film comedies usually has interesting things to say—when he talks, you know you're getting the perspective of someone who knows what audiences want. Albert's track, meanwhile, is a bit more lively, and complements and overlaps Ramis's comments. Hurley seems to be in the same room with Albert, but you'd hardly know it by the scarcity of her remarks. Both commentary tracks are available in Nuon Digest versions—sort of "greatest hits" collections that contain the most informative and entertaining comments.

Also included is an HBO "making of" featurette hosted by Hurley. Its tongue-in-cheek style can get annoying, however; only Hurley's charm makes it watchable. More worthwhile is a look at the film's production design, with considerable detail about the many costumes and make-up effects used in the film.

Rounding out the supplements are a few dozen production stills, four trailers and TV spots, and the THX Optimode roster of color bars and PLUGE patterns, designed to help viewers properly calibrate their TVs.

While it looks great and is packed with mostly entertaining extras, the Bedazzled DVD isn't a must-own by any means. Hurley makes the Devil look better than ever, but the film's scattered chuckles and its over-reliance on hackneyed plot contrivances are likely to leave you bored more often than bedazzled.