A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie, like the original TV series, may be cute but it also offers a somewhat skewed picture of a woman and her power. Samantha (Kidman) lies about her true nature and abilities in order to get what she wants. She uses her powers but then feels guilty about doing so, and her heart's desire is to find a "man who needs me." The film includes some language (for example, "pussy," "dick," "giant male reproductive organ"), brief drinking and smoking, mildly comic drug and sexual allusions.
What's the story?
Hired to play a fake witch on a TV remake of the Elizabeth Montgomery series, real witch Isabel (Nicole Kidman) is thrilled, since she desperately wants what the original Samantha wanted, a "normal" (mortal) existence. Indeed, she promises her skeptical father (Michael Caine) that she will no longer use her powers. Everything changes when she's cast as Samantha, costarring with Jack (Will Ferrell), a fading movie star trying to resuscitate his career. Attempting to "steal the show," Jack hogs the spotlight, laughs, and good lines, pushing docile Isabel aside. When she's had enough, Isabel conspires with her flustery Aunt Clara (Carole Shelley), cynical assistant Nina (Heather Burns), and squealy neighbor Maria (Kristin Chenoweth) to put a hex on Jack, so he will be nice. More than nice: he will be wholly devoted to his new paramour Isabel.
Is it any good?
This romantic comedy begins with a clever concept, but remains stuck in that first gear. The amusingly shifting grounds for Isabel and Jack's romance eventually give way to formula. Ferrell and his sidekicks (Steve Carell as Uncle Arthur, David Alan Grier as a sycophantic assistant) are repeating either parts from the TV series or parts they've played before. For no clear reason Isabel lets Jack step all over her, as if she thinks this is how human women behave to "win" their male mates. And Aunt Clara, Nina, and Maria are all broadly caricatured "supporting females," as if nothing has changed from the '60s.
At least Kidman again reveals her light, precise comic touch, and Shirley MacLaine is appropriately outsized as Iris, the TV actor playing Endora. All grand entrances and gauzy purple sleeves, she doesn't look dated, but rather, as if she's still waiting for the rest of us to catch up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Jack the actor's massive ego. How does the film connect his selfishness to his profession (all actors are narcissistic) or his gender (men are insecure but pretend to be arrogant)? Families might also discuss Isabel's decision to take the TV role, knowing that to appear "normal" she will be lying about her true nature. And how does the relationship between bigheaded Jack and cunning Isabel reinforce gender stereotypes?
- In theaters: June 24, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: October 25, 2005
- Cast: Nicole Kidman, Shirley MacLaine, Will Ferrell
- Director: Nora Ephron
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some language, including sex and drug references, and partial nudity.
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