The original "Bedazzled," the 1967 Peter Cook/Dudley Moore/Stanley Donen film about a pathetic creep who sells his soul to the (gorgeous) devil in order to gain some kind of a life here on earth, hasn't worn all that well, mainly because its references are so strictly '60s. The new one, directed by Harold Ramis ("Groundhog Day," "Caddyshack," "Analyze This") has done the smarter thing by omitting the topical and just going for laughs.
"Bedazzled" gives us Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser), a pathetic young man, invisible to Alison Gardner (Frances O'Connor), the woman he has a crush on at the software support office where they work, and where he is the constant butt of jokes by others in his office. In a word, he doesn't have a life, and therefore he's a perfect choice for the devil to offer him the Faustian bargain: Give me your soul and I'll give you seven wishes that will grant you anything you'd like in this life.
As the schmuck, Brendan Fraser is the perfect choice, with his open face, his gangly body, and his often underrated actor's ability to register shock, surprise, and pleasure without saying a word. He plays physical comedy as well as anyone in films today, and the script and direction support him all the way. As the devil, Elizabeth Hurley is just as perfect. She slinks, she pouts, she jokes with him, she leads him places he never even dreamed about. And she grants him his seven wishes.
His first wish is to be rich and powerful and married to Alison. A puff of smoke and he is, ta-dah, a Colombian drug lord. He even speaks Spanish. But all is not well at the estancia: First, Alison is having an affair with her English tutor, and then there is the big drug raid that Elliot has to flee before he's killed.
Another wish makes him into a cloyingly sensitive and atrociously bad poet, picnicking on the beach with Alison, crying with joy at the beauty of the sunset, until a group of young thugs come along, pick up a willing Alison, and disappear. What else? He wants to be President -- big mistake, as he becomes Lincoln the night he goes to Ford's Theatre. And so on. Ramis paces the film well, and Hurley grounds it with her gorgeous, sexy devil, leading Elliot into more and more bizarre adventures.
The film doesn't quite achieve classic status, mainly because the various sequences are too uneven in comic inspiration to hold up over time, but in a year as bad as this we should be grateful for anything as good as "Bedazzled."