Is it possible to make a comedy entirely laugh-free? If your example is "Bedazzled" (IMDb listing), then the answer is yes. Director Harold Ramis' film, starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley, is one of those rare occasions where nothing works. A remake of the 1967 Peter Cook/Dudley Moore comedy, "Bedazzled" is the type of film that hinges on its talent. It needs actors who can actually finesse laughs out of the material. And when I think of comedy, the two people that don't come immediately to mind are Hurley and the bottomlessly awful Fraser.
Having been blessed with some box office blockbusters, Fraser has been convinced that he is a rip-snorting comedian. Anyone who saw his last comedy, "Dudley Do-Right," could testify otherwise. Portraying bumbling (but lovable) Elliot, Fraser gives his trademark 110 percent investment into the character, alternating from Jerry Lewis slapstick to the painter-guy-with-the-afro-on-PBS-style sensitivity. As the sad sack who sells his soul to the Devil (Hurley) for seven wishes, Fraser can't squeeze any laughter or sympathy out of his character. Hurley wearing an almost Oscar-worthy set of costumes is also a cold fish when it comes to yuks. The co-star of "Austin Powers" is much more effective as a straight-man, but "Bedazzled" has Hurley as the jokester. The effects of which are as frigid and disaffected as her English accent. Nevertheless, she does look great.
The concept for "Bedazzled" is a funny one. Through Elliot's wishes, we see Fraser transform into a multitude of characters through severe make-up appliances and optical effects. Each of which is more ridiculous than the next. However, with the usually reliable Ramis at the helm, it comes as a tremendous surprise that the visual gags fall flat. When Elliot wishes to become a professional basketball player, the joke of the transformation is that for a 7-foot-tall ball player, he's afflicted with small genitalia. Ha ha?
Ramis has never been the barometer of good taste (this is the man who directed "Vacation" with a dog-urine-sandwich-eating Chevy Chase), but the talented director can usually be a pretty good judge of material. For all the objections over remakes in this day and age, "Bedazzled" is unfortunately a pretty good case against.
Filmfodder Grade: D