One hardly expects brilliance and innovation when attending yet another “sell-your-soul-to-the-devil-for-seven-lousy-wishes” movie. Bedazzled does nothing to alter those expectations. It is cute and endearing on occasion, and if you strip away the spiritual bobbles, there emerges a pretty nifty moral lesson: Selling out to Satan never, ever, ever pays off. True enough. The story is so well-known, though, that it’s hard to bear with Elliot as he bumbles his way through his first six wishes desperately trying to win the love of his coworker Allsion before he finally wises up and puts one in the Devil’s face. Most audience members figured everything out sometime around the first wish. The subsequent wishes just serve up special effects and moderately funny comedy. Despite her incessant costume changes and runway poses, model/actress Elizabeth Hurley pulls off her postmodern Devil impersonation with ease, and Brendan Fraser’s Elliot certainly outstrips anything he’s done lately (Dudley Do-Right anyone?), but the scripts they were handed melt like snowballs in … Jamaica.
positive elements: If you don’t believe in God and the Devil before entering the theater, this movie won’t turn the tide. But it does make at least one sound “theological” point. The Devil is a liar. Everything that flows from his (her) mouth is deceit and trickery. And he prowls the earth seeking out people to destroy (1 Peter 5:8). It takes a while for Elliot to get the point, but he does and so do viewers. This allegory may be a bit trite and worn as high-concept film comedy, but in the realities of life, the principle holds true. If you see the Devil coming, run away as fast as you can. If the Devil whispers promises of love, life, happiness and wealth, what he really means is hate, death, sadness and despair.
spiritual content: The Devil acknowledges that God is real. Unfortunately, it is also intimated that God smokes cigarettes and hangs out in the park playing chess with the Devil. The Devil quips, “Most men think they are god, this one just happens to be right.” She jokes that she has offices in Hell, Purgatory and Los Angeles. One quick scene mocks Scientology.
sexual content: The Devil is constantly modeling new gowns, the type that usually only see the light of day at the Academy Awards. Plunging necklines and waist-high slits are exploited at every turn. She wears even more revealing lingerie in a couple of scenes. During one wish that turns Elliot into a larger-than-life basketball star, much is made of the size of his “manhood.” When Allison comes on to him in the locker room, he’s eager to go back to her place, so he takes off his towel to get dressed. In the process she sees him nude. She’s not shocked by the fact that he flashed her, but instantly rejects him because of his below-average endowment.
When the Devil takes Elliot to Allison’s apartment, she reads from Allison’s diary while he peeks in on the unsuspecting girl as she takes a shower. The Devil maliciously makes up a diary entry that talks about Allison engaging in group sex. In a later wish, Elliot discovers he’s gay and finds his male lover already in bed waiting for him. He kisses Allison to test whether he is indeed gay or straight, and concludes that he’s gay when the kiss doesn’t excite him like he thinks it should. Sensual dancing and mild sexual innuendo also intrude.
violent content: Machine-gun battles and explosions punctuate Elliot’s wish for power and wealth. That wish ends with him falling from a helicopter and landing on the hood of a car. Another wish ends with a man waving a pistol in his face. The Devil blows up a car by throwing a flaming drink into it. And just for the fun of it, she shorts out the traffic lights at an intersection, causing a massive pile-up. Allison throws things at Elliot in anger. Elliot pushes a coworker.
crude or profane language: Pretty tame by today’s PG-13 standards. Two s-words (one in English; one subtitled and in Spanish). A dozen other mild profanities. A dozen misuses of “God.” A woman makes a obscene hand gesture.
drug and alcohol content: Comedic props only. Early on, Elliot’s coworkers drink in a bar. A man is shown with cocaine powder all around his nose. Elliot drinks a martini.
conclusion:“I think you’re hot, baby,” Elliot says to the Devil when he meets her. She coyly responds, “You have no idea.” That’s how the film begins. It concludes with Elliot arguing with the Devil about what things matter most in life. She insists that watching TV, playing video games, avoiding homework and waking up late are all that matter. He comes back with honesty, caring for others and hard work. Of course she’s indignant that anyone could believe such rubbish. But Elliot’s played the game long enough. “There are things that I want,” he tells her. “But nothing that you can give me.” A few minutes later he declares, “It doesn’t really matter how far we go in life. It’s how we get there that really matters.” Right on Elliot. You learned your lesson. But Bedazzled didn’t. It also asserts that Heaven and Hell are right here on earth, created by man’s good and bad decisions. “You just have to make the choice,” the Devil says. Not so. Besides, director Harold Ramis admits he went out of his way to skew “traditional notions of good and evil.” He insists that his Devil “is not a villain. She’s more naughty than evil.”
At first glance, one might assume the same of his movie. But on closer inspection, humanistic theology and spiritual smokescreens turn it into a monster. Quite literally, Elliot conquers Satan and earns his salvation with his own strength. And God is just another guy in the park with a few good ideas. When you think about it that way, Bedazzled isn’t just naughty, it’s downright diabolical.