Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Bedazzled / Bedazzled |
Actors: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Eleanor Bron
Directors: Harold Ramis, Stanley Donen
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Genre: Feature Film-Comedy Rating: UN Release Date: 10-JUN-2008 Media Type: DVD
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In defense of Brendan Fraser: A fresh look at "Bedazzled"
Laurie | Decatur, GA | 05/12/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Brendan Fraser has taken some nasty hits recently. There are hair rumors, weight dissings, the whole Golden Globes clap n' point thing, and now "Furry Vengeance," which, God help, has his name on it as star and executive producer. By all public appearances though, he's taken it all with grace. Yeah, he says, I added some pounds. I was at the Golden Globes and spazzed. Sure, my crotch gets attacked over and over in "Furry Vengeance" but it makes my kids laugh. The man seems to be an affable, self-effacing goofball who knows exactly who and what he is. In this regard, as far as movie actors go, he seems to stand alone.
Men want to despise men who women openly idolize. They get as snide as 14-year-old girls when they fall short in comparison. In their own testosterone pumped cattiness it seems they've been lying in wait for the nice-guy, lust-worthy ape-man to turn 40 and lose his ab definition so they can pounce. What they underestimate is Brendan Fraser's fan base. His fans don't require a rippled stomach to continue their support. For most of them, it isn't about that.
There are hordes of dedicated Fraser fans who bristle more at the current attacks than Fraser seems to himself. For some, it started with George from "George of the Jungle," embraceable not just for the lithe muscles, but for the charming innocence. Others were wooed by the Mummy's Rick O'Connell, an action hero with brilliant blue eyes, even bluer against the desert, who lets a smart woman take the lead with the full understanding that his strength is protecting her, not competing with her. Perhaps it was "baby-man" Adam Weber from "Blast from the Past," at age 35 discovering the world for the first time in late-1990's LA, where his good manners and well-rounded education were perceived as freakish. There may be some late bloomers who waited until they saw Uncle Trevor in 3D before they fell in line. (note: if you need to be convinced of Brendan Fraser as egoless kook, listen to his commentary on the "Journey to the Center of the Earth" DVD. He lovingly calls out the movie's cheesiest moments, and as executive producer, he's well within his rights to do so, channels Mike Meyers, taunts himself and his little paunch, and even points out his own man-boobs. Which in turn begs the question, what other actor would be comfortable enough with himself to direct attention to his man-boobs? In 3D, no less?)
However, I may be the only fan newly recruited to the Brendan-cult by uber-nerd Elliot Richards. Everything I needed to gain respect for Brendan Fraser as an actor I found in "Bedazzled."
At the core of me, I was sure I would never waste my time on this movie. The poster/DVD cover with its red background and the sleazy picture of Fraser with Elizabeth Hurley, snake and flames repulsed me. How many soul bartering devil movies does the world really need? We get it already. Don't negotiate with the devil. Hell, just avoid any conversation with the devil period. More importantly, don't bother with any movie that makes you cringe even before you see it. Yes, "Inkheart," books are judged by their covers. That's why millions are spent marketing movies. In the case of "Bedazzled," that money was a poor investment.
To summarize quickly--Elliot Richards is a socially inept dweeb who has a crush on an unattainable woman, making him the perfect patsy for a devil deal. He gets seven wishes before he hands his soul over, which means Elliot gets several makeovers as he wishes in multiple failed ways to be the man he is not.
Released a decade ago, "Bedazzled" wasn't particularly loved by the critics but it wasn't wholly panned, either. Despite the current perception, the reviews still available on the internet range from lukewarm to great. The New York Times describes the movie's setup then offers this: "What follows is outrageous fun. Elliot, wishing himself rich, powerful and married to Alison, is transformed into a Colombian drug lord. Mr. Fraser is a master of goofy befuddlement, and his face as he discovers himself speaking Spanish is almost worth the price of the ticket." Good or bad review, Fraser's performance was roundly praised. The Times goes on to say, "The physical transformations that Mr. Fraser undergoes in each scenario are impressive, but the real artistry is in his quick-change performance. He looks perpetually surprised at himself as he utters dumb- jock clichés, sings a song in praise of our friend the dolphin (complete with dolphin voices) and delivers nonsensical witticisms at a high-toned literary soirée. With his slightly pudgy face and his loose, ungainly physical presence, he manages to be both likable and ridiculous." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times didn't like the movie but still writes: "Fraser is a wonderful comic actor--better than he gets the credit for, because he creates funny characters instead of exploding in what is intended as funny behavior."
What finally convinced me to see "Bedazzled" was Harold Ramis. Director and co-writer Harold Ramis' involvement was unknown to me until a couple of months ago and for me gave the movie comic street-cred. If you don't know him, but his name sounds familiar it's because Harold Ramis directed or co-wrote cult-followed classic comedies starting in the days of SCTV and early SNL that became their own subgenre--movies like "Animal House," "Caddyshack," "National Lampoon's Vacation," "Ghostbusters," and a personal favorite of mine, "Groundhog Day." For me that trumped Hurley, boa constrictor, and rewarmed concept. And I hate to say it, but Fraser.
Here's what happened. I rented the movie and watched it through stunned. When it was over, I immediately went back and watched the first 10 minutes three or four times in a row. I knew Elliot Richards! There was an Elliot Richards sitting a few cubicles over from me at my office. I had avoided and insulted multiple Elliots through the years. That was me at the bar table, wincing as an uninvited Elliot approaches, realizing the chair next me is the only one available and that I'm trapped. When I've made inappropriate jokes that have fallen with a thud to the floor I've worried that I was an Elliot Richards. I did not expect Fraser to play such an unflattering character. I did not expect his performance, from the broad strokes to the nuances, to be perfect.
As the devil twists his dreams into nightmares, Elliot is transformed physically to match each wishful scenario. For a good chunk of the movie, Fraser Is unrecognizable. He is prostheticed, wigged, freckled, and for one alter-Elliot, 3G enhanced. The transformation I found most amazing was the most subtle. He wishes to be very handsome, sophisticated and intellectual. When he enters the scene, he looks different but I couldn't figure out how. His hair is parted on the side and coiffured back, but that wasn't it. This Elliot, as opposed to real Elliot, is dressed immaculately in an expensive suit, and has perfect posture, but that still didn't explain why Fraser didn't look like himself. I inched through the frames, frustrated that I couldn't tell what was just off enough to not to be quite right. Then I realized it was his nose. They had altered his nose in the slightest way, making it more sloped and pointed. Now it's one thing to say to a movie star, hey, for comedy's sake, we're gonna ginger you up with red hair, gooey freckled complexion and give you little teeth. It's another thing entirely to say to a movie star, hey, to make you really handsome we have to change your face. The result is a hyper-handsomeness, bordering on caricature, which was exactly what was needed for comic effect. But can you imagine broaching the subject with any leading man? Wouldn't it result in a screaming diva debacle?
What I realized is that when Brendan Fraser commits to a movie, he commits whole-heartedly and with enthusiasm for the process. He appears to be willing to let go and do his part, trusting that the director, producers and creative team will do theirs. As film actors become more celebrated they also seem to become more controlling, and there isn't the sense that Fraser needs to do that. Good movie, bad movie, there is no slacking. He's obviously willing to do anything on behalf of the project no matter how it makes him look. Some may see his resume and wonder if he shouldn't have pushed back more often. If you're a director, though, he should top the list of actors who would be dreamboats to work with, seeing that Fraser lets his image take backseat to the director's vision. When a movie doesn't work, it's hard to blame him. He's doing everything he can, and when the material and director are good, Fraser's talent is in full evidence. Now, if he could just be a bit more selective about scripts and directors, he would find the respect for his acting that he's only had sporadically through the years.
I see all these qualities illustrated in "Bedazzled." He's fearless. When asked to sing like a dolphin, he does. It's ridiculous. It's also really funny. He doesn't hesitate to play Elliot full-dork, and, as mentioned earlier, he's perfect. The face, the posture, the voice, the laugh, the line delivery, the smile, he captures awkward and unattractive jerk with the same gusto that he did handsome matinee hero. The critics tend to like him in more serious roles, but he's a natural comedian and he's given the chance to prove it more so here than in his other comedies. He gets to be really good in what I find to be a surprisingly good movie and those things don't align for him as often as they should.
Having pleaded my case, I ask you to go back and see "Bedazzled" again, or if you haven't seen it, find it. In my opinion, it's Brendan Fraser at his best. Maybe you'll take away from it what I did--that Brendan Fraser is a likable, under-appreciated, talented actor. Appreciate that he always gives it his all, even in something as unworthy as "Furry Vengeance" and is managing to keep his sense of humor and humility despite the recent public malice. Give him a break, send him some love, and wish for a good script to come his way. He's paid his dues.