The classic English comedy written in 1967 by Peter Cook and starring Cook and Dudley Moore has been Americanized. In other words, it has less deadpan humor, sly wit, and existential comedy and more jokes about penis size. But it is still delicious fun and one of the best comedies of the year. It may not leave you bedazzled, but it will leave you happy.
Brendan Fraser is one of the most versatile actors around, which makes him a perfect choice for the role of Elliot, a nerdy guy who longs for the beautiful Allison. But after four years working in the same firm, he has managed to speak to her only once, and that was about the weather. When he whispers that he would give anything to have her, that is all the invitation that the devil (Elizabeth Hurley) needs to make him an offer he can’t refuse — seven wishes in exchange for his soul.
But as anyone who has ever read a fairy tale knows, wishes are a tricky business. Elliot wishes to be rich, powerful, and married to Allison. He is instantly all three — and a Colombian drug lord. And Allison hates him. Elliot stumbles his way through his wishes, each time adding in what he left out before only to find that he has created yet another loophole. He may be rich, smart, popular, sensitive, and well-endowed, but somehow it never works out the way he hoped.
Fraser is wonderful, almost unrecognizable as he moves from sensitive poet to basketball superstar. Hurley may not be up to the acting challenge, but she looks like a million bucks in a series of hilarous get-ups, and she has that most important attribute of a movie bad guy — an English accent. The rest of the cast does not have much to do beyond wardrobe switches as they play different roles in each scenario, but Frances O’Connor (Allison) has a great smile and Orlando Jones (of “The Replacements” and the 7-Up commercials) has a couple of good moments. Gabriel Casseus makes a strong impression as someone who gives Elliot some good advice.
Parents should know that the PG-13 rating comes from some relatively mild language, sexual humor (including references to homosexuality), comic peril, and comic drug use.
Families who watch this movie should talk about what wishes they would like to make, whether they would make them if they had a chance, and what the Devil means when she says that you don’t have to look very far for Heaven and Hell. Ask kids what they think a soul is, and whether it can be sold. What did Elliot learn from his mistakes? Why was it so hard for him to be likeable and to see how others perceived him at the beginning of the movie? How was he different after the wishes? Was the ending what they expected?
Families who enjoy this movie should see the original version (notice the names of the Devil’s dogs in the new version). They may also enjoy other “sell your soul to the devil” movies like “The Devil and Daniel Webster” and “Alias Nick Beal.”