By People Staff
July 04, 2005 12:00 PM

Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Michael Caine, Shirley MacLaine

A clever concept stretches only so far. Which explains why this initially diverting film, derived from the long-running TV show Bewitched (1964-72), fails to keep its cotton-candy broomstick aloft to the finish line. Director-cowriter Nora Ephron (You’ve Got Mail) kicks off her Bewitched with an inspired idea: A real witch (Kidman, fetchingly winsome) is cast as Samantha, the housewife-enchantress, in a remake of the series.

Swell start, but where do you go from there? The movie has its nose-twitching heroine, Isabel, who in real life is trying to renounce her witchy ways and live as a human, fall for Jack Wyatt (Ferrell), the dim-bulb actor playing Darrin, her civilian hubby on the sitcom. Jack is a washedup egocentric movie star in constant need of reassurance. “He’s idiotic,” says Isabel, “yet I find him completely charming.”

Uh, she got the first part right. There’s zero charm to Ferrell’s strident, let’s-play-this-like-another-SNL-sketch performance. One keeps recasting the role while watching the movie. Could Jim Carrey have made it work? George Clooney? Caine is a total delight as Isabel’s warlock father, harrumphing at her attempts to live as a mortal. MacLaine, portraying a flamboyant actress cast as Endora (Sam’s flamboyant mother), is underutilized. While nowhere near as tiresome as The Stepford Wives, Kidman’s foray into similarly nostalgic territory last summer, this Bewitched casts no lasting spell. (PG-13)