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Could it Be . . . Satan?: The Devil (Elizabeth Hurley) teaches social misfit Elliot (Brendan Fraser) to be careful what he wishes for.

Devilish Wit

The Devil makes a loser do a lot of naughty things in the remake of 'Bedazzled'

By Richard von Busack

IF YOU SAW THE UNFUNNY TRAILERS, you'll be all the more surprised that the remake of Bedazzled works beautifully--that what seemed like the most extraneous remake of the last few years turns out to be hilarious. The 1967 Bedazzled--with screenwriter Peter Cook as an officious Satan, calling himself "George Spiggott"--concerned a London hamburger chef (the young Dudley Moore) given seven chances by the devil to win the woman he loved. She was the exotic, melancholy Eleanor Bron, who was also the female lead in the Beatles' movie Help.

The new Bedazzled is Americanized--but that's not a bad thing, as some of the apocalyptic imagery heightens the tension. This is what comes of making a movie in a nation that, unlike the U.K., still takes the devil seriously: the spice of threat seasons this inspired remake.

At one point, the Devil (played by Elizabeth Hurley), transforms herself into a more traditional Lucifer, opera-cloaked, mustachioed and red skinned, like the figure on the firecracker label, and her victim, Elliot (Brendan Fraser), utters a girlish shriek of terror.

Fraser--who can be a virginal mooncalf as well as prime beefcake--has multiple roles as an insignificant fool who pawns his soul in exchange for seven wishes. Happily, this movie makes us--at first--root for the con-woman and not the sucker. As the Devil, Hurley is a super-saleswoman. The first thought after seeing Bedazzled was that it was a very important film for male adolescents to see, as a comedic object lesson in all of the wrong paths men take to try to make themselves attractive--not being deep, Elliot choses badly, from basketball superstar to president of the United States, to world's most sensitive boy-man. The second thought I had was that it would be an excellent film for sales departments . . . the diabolical art of the deal is presented with more savor here than in David Mamet. (The Devil's contract begins, "The undersigned, hereafter referred to as the Damned . . . ") The supporting cast includes the curly-lipped Frances O'Connor (of Mansfield Park) as the elusive girl in Elliot's lives, and Paul Adelstein, Toby Huss, and the versitaile, good-looking comedian Orlando Jones as Elliot's snide co-workers (and as Satan's little helpers in the various episodes.)

Director Harold Ramis fudges the ending to make it non-denominational; endorsing the idea that heaven and hell are within every body, while telling us that the Devil is a soul-hunter, seeking whom she may devour, et cetera. Still, the thoughtful tone this rich comedy takes persists longer than any theological distractions. Very bright stuff in a very dull season.

Bedazzled (PG-13; 93 min.) directed by Harold Ramis, written by Peter Tolan and Larry Gelbart, photographed by Bill Pope and starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley, opens Friday at selected theaters valleywide.

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From the October 19-25, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. MetroActive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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