Starring Dan Stevens, Leslie Mann, Isla Fisher, Judi Dench
Directed by Edward Hall
Rating: * ½
If only Noel Coward had known that this would be done to his effervescent 1941 play, maybe he wouldn’t have written it at all. Or put a legal sanction against asinine adaptations.When it comes to inane pointless adaptations, this one takes the cake bakery and flour mill.
Lacking completely in verve and basic entertainment Blithe Spirit should immediately be rechristened Bland Spirit. It impudently takes Coward’s play about a writer stumbling on to his dead wife’s spirit and turn it into some kind of emptied-out exercise in intellectual bankruptcy. What were genuinely hilarious moments in the original, for example the writer(Dan Stevens, hysterically hangdog) confiding in his best friend about his inability to…errrr…rise to the occasion, are transmuted into awkward passages creaking under the weight of explanatory footnotes .
The only saving grace is the British diva Judie Dench. As the séance medium Ms Dench summons up a spirited performance in a dead film about summoning dead spirits. Ms Dench is Madame Arcati, a bit of a fraud simulating pseudo-spirits on stage, until she stumbles onto the real thing. It’s a farcical one-note character and must have been child’s play for Ms Dench. Hope she got paid well for it. Why else would she be part of film that seems to be painfully clueless about how to keep the Coward-ly embers burning?
Much of the film has the writer-hero’s two wives ,one alive and other dead(though both could be equally dead, for all we care) battling it out in true rivals style.Isla Fisher(alive wife) and Leslie Mann(dead wife) pretend hard to hate each other. But you know they are laughing their heads off over tequila shots as soon as the shot is over.
Blithe Spirit is that sort of rare disaster which everyone involved can see coming.It fails to do any justice to the original source and offers nothing in the way of innovation or entertainment. Good that Noel Coward is no more. He didn’t have to live to see this. As for the iconic Judi Dench, please don’t do this to yourself. Please don’t do this to us.