Stars: *** 1/2
Rating: PG-13 for sexual innuendo, adult situations
Run Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes minutes
I worried when I heard it was a remake of an old Dudley Moore movie. I worried when the opening date was repeatedly pushed back, and that Elizabeth Hurley was tackling more than a cameo role. Needless worrying? Happily, yes.
What a bewitching little comedy. Hurley, in her largest role to date, stars as Satan. Not your ordinary horns-and-pitchfork type, but a sexy, manipulative she-devil who delights in condemning her victims to an eternity of fiery torment. Quarry of the moment is techno-geek Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser), a loser in love, luck, and life. Elliot has an unsatisfied yen for the unattainable Allison (Frances O’Connor), an office beauty completely unaware of Elliot’s existence. Satan offers Elliot a simple deal – his soul in return for seven wishes. Elliot, desperate for a chance to win Allison’s affection, grudgingly signs on the dotted line.
It’s easy to forget what a big talent Brendan Fraser is, thanks to such bow-wows as “Dudley Do-Right and “The Mummy”. From wish to wish, Elliot is transformed into a stunning array of colorful characters. Columbian drug lord, star basketball player, sophisticated novelist – each with the corresponding physical traits and speech patterns. Fraser segues from one to another with astounding ease, embodying nuanced mannerisms as easily as you’d change socks. Foreign languages, lengthy discourses on secular humanism and the origins of gin, restlessly pacing the court with attitude and vanilla funk. He’s got the goods, and this is the ideal showcase. Hurley does more than a passable job as the wicked seductress. Not inclined to have Elliot content with his wishes, she thwarts each fantasy with a thinly-veiled, the-devil-made-me-do-it innocence. Fabulous costume changes and amusing glimpses into the nefarious details of her day job complete her lively characterization.
Did I mention funny? As written by Larry Gelbart and director Harold Ramis (based on the 1967 Peter Cook/Dudley Moore story), the dialogue is laugh-a-minute, with few lulls. Occasional cheap shots are borderline offensive, especially a gay-themed scenario that is intentionally crass. Opening credit sequence and first half-hour raise the expectation bar, and the blithe climax does not disappoint. Light and fun fantasy - just what the devil, er, doctor, ordered.