"Bedazzled" - 1967
Dir. by Stanley Donen - 1 hr. 43 min.
This is what you'd call a "high concept" comedy - the devil offers seven wishes (that he'll figure out a way to sabotage) in exchange for your soul. Dudley Moore, playing a unassuming fry cook named Stanley Moon, takes Peter Cook's devil up on that offer. It's a great concept, but the Britishness of this film is also undercuts the execution. There's a resignation to the entire movie, a reminder that people are unlikely to break out of their roles, regardless of change of scenery. And even though Moon tries to kill himself early in the movie, there's never a sense of real despair. While Cook and Moore natter on pleasantly throughout the film, it never feels like there's anything at stake.
For a concept like selling your very soul for a better situation in life, the lack of consequence is probably the most disturbing thing here. But as Moore tears through each wish, getting deterred repeatedly from his goal of gaining the affections of co-worker Margaret (played by Elanor Bron), there's no sense that the stakes are increasing with each failed attempt, or even a sense of buyer's remorse on Moore's part. The lack of awareness of his situation kind of dooms the movie with a sense of detachment that's hard to break through.
This is a pleasant film to watch (and Raquel Welch is blisteringly hot here in her smallish role), but with such a great idea, it feels like it could have been so much more. The 2000 remake starring Brendan Fraser didn't get it right either, but the movie that really nailed a version of this concept is "Groundhog Day." Here, ultimately, it's the devil that's aiming for some kind of redemption, and Moore's character is let off the hook, further removing any consequences for his actions. In the end, everyone is right back where they started, which is a fairly nihilistic statement for such a glib film.
2.5 / 5 - NF Streaming