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The Devil and Daniel Webster
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Reviews & Ratings for
Shortcut to Happiness More at IMDbPro »The Devil and Daniel Webster (original title)

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30 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

A Very Good film and definitely worth watching

Author: cute_little_seniorita from United States
25 August 2006

I saw this film at the Venice Film Festival and have waited a long time to comment on it as I wanted to see it again when I was released. However, it still has not come out and I don't know if it ever will.

Alec Baldwin is a writer, down on his luck and nowhere to go but down even further.

As with many viewers I suspect, I was attracted to this film by the cast and the fact that it has received so much press, good and bad. The plot is based on the old casino idea of a writer whose career in next to nil and is getting ready to self destruct – and unless you get into it, it'll feel rather forced and silly at times.

However the film helped me to overcome this by being very low key and downbeat – very much like Baldwin himself. The film is not a great thing but one that is easy to get into. The film uses Las Vegas really well but it is a classic story that is fun to believe in. It is much better than the fun, breezy and slick fantasies that we are sold in other films. The mix of romance, comedy and violence works very well – at points it was very touching, at others quite funny.

It isn't perfect of course and the writing is where the problems lie; the story did rely on the audience buying into it and at times the dialogue comes very close to corn (but just misses). The only time I felt really let down was the ending, which, although fitting with the spirit of the film, missed a great chance to be fun, exciting and original all at the same time.

Still, a good film and definitely worth the watching.

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24 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

An Excellent Movie!! It was well worth the wait.

Author: babyhayhayrocks from United States
14 August 2006

This film was shot in 2002 but it was three years later that I saw this film at the Naples Film Festival and it was a terrific film!! Anthony Hopkins was the lawyer who is hired to save Baldwin form eternal damnation and he was terrific. Jennifer Love Hewitt was sensational as the Devil and as usual, Kim Cattrall was a knock-out. Dan Akroyd really showed off his dramatic talents.

Of all the actors in the film, the one I had to rank the lowest was Baldwin. He really had no business acting or directing this film. His performance left a lot to be desired and his directing even more so. I found out later that he walked off the set after he turned in his Director's cut and they hired a new editor who literally saved this film the dying a slow death.

I read in the trades where Producers Michael Gordon and David Glasser were the ones who kept trying to keep this film from sitting on a shelf for the next twenty years and finally got Bob Yari to acquire the film from the insurance company. Make a point to see this film when it comes out, I think it was well worth the wait.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Smarmy, tasteless, trendily cynical rewrite of "The Devil and Daniel Webster"

Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
21 July 2010

Struggling novelist, unable to get anything published much less an actual audience to read his work, enters into a pact with a comely female Satan: fame and fortune in exchange for his immortal soul. Archibald Macleish's play "Scratch" becomes an updating of "The Devil and Daniel Webster" (filmed in 1941, with a panicked farmer as the tempted central figure); producer-director Alec Baldwin portrays the leading character opposite a terrific supporting cast, including Anthony Hopkins as lawyer Daniel Webster and Jennifer Love Hewitt as the Devil. Unfortunately, the movie was edited against Baldwin's wishes after sitting on the shelf for years, debuting on the Starz television network in 2007 after some brief theatrical bookings. It begins well but quickly loses its footing once Baldwin's writer gains the success he so desired, turning the picture into a yuppie treatise on the old money-can't-buy-happiness ploy. The filmmakers are so out-of-touch, they don't even consider the fact that maybe some of the writer's needs ARE fulfilled by his newfound celebrity. Instead, he turns into a sad sack with money in the bank and women at his feet--clearly not something struggling writers in real-life can identify with. Worse, there's never a moment when this man's heart is actually detectable; Baldwin is so callow an actor (not to mention as the director) that all we perceive are his handsome, unmodulated externals. He purses his lips and gazes intently at the camera, hoping to smolder, while viewers lose track of the character's roots. The final courtroom battle is well-played, though so much of the writing is smarmy, and executed without style, that the overall results are distinctly unsatisfactory. *1/2 from ****

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27 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

I Had A Devil Of A Time Watching This Film!!

Author: michaelzstuff from California
21 May 2005

I think this film is truly cursed! I wonder how much more could happen to it. But, to give the Devil its due, this is really a good film. I saw it at a screening and it had two of the makings of a successful film: Good cast and a good story.

However, the drawbacks are that Baldwin did a mediocre job directing it and an even more mediocre job playing the lead. BUT, in spite of Baldwin's ineptness, it actually turned out to be a very good film. I would go see it again and I would take my family to see it (if they edited out the bedroom scene).

BOTTOM LINE: It's a wonderful and classic story with a wonderful cast and somehow this film has been able to overcome all of the obstacles that stood in its way. Hopkins was great, Hewitt was terrific, Cattrall was excellent and Akroyd, as usual did a very good job.

Don't be put off by all the negative hype, go see it for yourself!!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

I'd like to see the director's cut.

Author: kyleuhland from United States
16 August 2010

One of the reviews says there were three versions of the film. I'd like to see Baldwin's original cut of this movie. The last version was cut badly, there are many unnatural breaks in the film. like it was edited for commercial breaks. The breaks where scenes were cut seem apparent.

Apparently the 1941 movie suffered a similar fate, with many titles and severe editing.

The story runs counter to the traditional American ethic of money equaling happiness.

The film was purchased out of bankruptcy for a fraction of production costs, and renamed and hacked for a fast return on investment.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Not so bad but... not so good.

Author: mathou_gdk from France
15 September 2010

I saw this movie because of Jennifer Love Hewitt (she's so cute!), but, well, maybe i shouldn't have. It isn't exactly boring, but it isn't interesting neither.

It's not the worst movie ever, it has some great ideas but they're not as exploited as they could have been, the acting is decent (except for Alec Baldwin who just overdoes it).

If you don't have anything better to do (or to watch), well, it will keep you busy for an hour and a half... But maybe you'd better check Bedazzled out, it's way more funny than Shortcut to Happiness ! (PS: Sorry if I made some syntax or spelling mistakes, i'm french)

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Why we say "not bad" instead of "good" ?!

Author: ahmed elshikh ( from Egypt
25 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is not a coincidence that the 2 words painless and penniless resemble each others. Pain makes our greatness, no doubt about that. However, in today's world, some people just proved the opposite. This movie comes to say that meaning with good intentions, talking – in rare time – about many writers who have big success out of soulless works (the rest of books that Daniel Webster published away from the few great ones he really respects). It didn't forget to mention the big yet empty Hollywood blockbusters also, that earn millions while not saying a thing, or be totally forgotten later. Selling without soul does sound like selling the soul for what end up as cheaper matters in comparison. So would you live paradise on earth without soul? Well, the real question is : could you? Obviously (The Devil and Daniel Webster) is another Faust that asks and answers that, yet done so poorly.

Defending this movie is a lost cause. It seemed like a long episode of (Amazing Stories), and without the wit of that show too. Baldwin did direct it lifelessly and tastelessly. The important situations were done non-importantly (The agreement's scene for little instance). For one, so unfortunate, time I witnessed Anthony Hopkins acting badly, OH MY GOD, the great man was doing his job indifferently like it's a cold rehearsal all along. You have to suspect, or be sure, that this is an outcome for the "no" efforts of the man behind the camera this round. Baldwin must have been shy to direct the Hopkins himself !

Jennifer Love Hewitt was unbelievably miscast to historical extent. I mean WHY ???!!!!! If the devil is that ugly, then fighting it would be so easy job! Look at the scene where she has to take her coat off, seducing the lead to sell his soul; then rewind but replacing Marilyn Monroe instead. Actually I don't need to do that to know HOW AWFUL HEWITT WAS! The moment of her saying "when was the last time you woke up on the bed with a girl like **me** ?!" is whether a hint about Baldwin as a virgin, or it is one of the most comic moments ever ! (I know that I laughed a lot after it !).

Yes, there are some smart points, like transforming the contract into sex. But the death of the friend, the second friend, was a bit fabricated or just too metaphoric (the end of the true writer inside the lead?). Then the stroke. The major pain. The basic crap. And I do mean the climactic sequence. While being the movie's highest point at all, it has the poorest acting, directing, and writing. Surely the speech of Hopkins's character didn't persuade me even for a second, the devil's one was stronger and truer. As you see, this movie doesn't know how to save its lead, or itself !

As I read at the Trivia section; after filming was completed in 2001 the movie has been shelved for nearly 6 years due to lack of funds. Then it was extensively re-edited after coming into the possession of Bob Yari Productions, and no longer bears any resemblance to its original form or to Stephen Vincent Benet's short story. So Baldwin has since requested that his name be removed from the credits as director and producer. According to what I watched, I couldn't agree more ! So whatever it's Baldwin's, Bob Yari Productions', or even the devil's fault, the weak effect that (Shortcut to Happiness) achieved, especially after so pale and unexplained finale, does make you remember it – at best – as "not bad" movie. There weren't enough elements to eventually call it "good". Simply good intentions can't make a good movie alone.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Took so long to see the light of day, because it's pretty blah.

Author: TheEmulator23 ( from S. Lake Tahoe, CA
2 February 2009

This is one of those films that I remember being in the can for years before anything happening w/it. I don't think it's terrible, but it's not really good either. Alec Baldwin was pretty good, but the plot is it kind of flimsy at best. The cast is pretty good in what they're given, but again you are only as good as the script. Baldwin directing this although I could have sworn he didn't direct all of it, I thought I read somewhere or lots of re-shoots wasn't bad but he definitely has some potential in there. Although his work on "30 Rock" is nothing short of genius & should keep him busy for a little while longer. I just hope the show bows out gracefully a la Seinfeld, but maybe not even that long. 9 years it went. So if you want to see a film that you won't get much from, but won't really hate either well this is for you. I can't remember the last time a film had been wrapped so long before finally being released & only on DVD at that. It was nice to see Alec Baldwin & Anthony Hopkins again together since their excellent yet not much people have seen "The Edge." Now pick up that excellent film for some real entertainment.

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13 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

There Is no Shortcut to Happiness

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
25 April 2008

In Manhattan, the aspirant writer Jabez Stone (Alec Baldwyn) is a complete loser: he is not able to sell his novels, he lives in a lousy apartment and he does not have success with women. When one of his friends Julius Jenson (Dan Aykroyd) sells his novel for US$ 190,000.00 to an editor, Jabez fells envy and promises to sell his soul to the devil for success and accidentally kills a woman with his typing machine. The Devil (Jeniffer Love Hewitt) knocks on his door, fixes the situation and seals a contract with Jabez. His low quality novels have bad reviews but become best-sellers; Jabez enriches; has success with women, but has no time for his friends. Jabez meets with the publisher Daniel Webster (Anthony Hopkins) who offers him a chance to break the contract with the devil.

"The Devil and Daniel Webster" is an original and delightful version of Faust, alternating comedy and drama and giving great messages in the end. The lovely and cute Jeniffer Love Hewitt "steals" the movie with her interpretation of a sexy and smart devil. Anthony Hopkins has another top-notch performance. Kim Cattrall is very comfortable performing Constance Hurry that recalls Samantha, from "Sex and the City". Dan Aykroid shows talent in his dramatic interpretation and is a good surprise. Alec Baldwyn has a good performance too in spite of some bad reviews, and I did not know that the director Harry Kirkpatrick is actually a pseudonym of Alec Baldwyn. In the end, this movie is a pleasant and worthwhile entertainment. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "O Julgamento do Diabo" ("The Trial of the Devil")

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Don't Believe Anything you Hear and only Half of What you Read

Author: roycevenuter from Kalamazoo, MI
4 October 2016

As a teacher of fifty years experience in language and cinematic arts,I taught "The Devil and Dan'l Webster" as part of the fictional pantheon of American Literature. Although Alec Baldwin certainly has burned some bridges along the way in his career, this film takes creative risks, many of them worthy of consideration, which exemplify a significant part of Americana. Like its forbear, the 1941 cinematic adaptation starring Walter Huston, this version was attacked, condemned and dismissed when it was released. I believe that every adaptation of any book is an aesthetic fossil caught in cinematic amber.

The movie substantiates the same sort of meretricious value system in its depiction of Jabez Stone that struck Stephen Vincent Benet and the makers of the 1941 gem. In its lampooning of pretentious high society panderers of cheesy albeit popular writing, casting them as best-sellers, "Shortcut to Happiness"dramatizes a contemporary examination of what actually constitutes success in the dizzying world of publications.

Anthony Hopkins was well cast in the role of Daniel Webster. It is instructive to compare and contrast Edward Arnold's portrayal of Webster in the 1941 classic with that of Hopkins, because both actors have earned a lifetime of accolades, portraying both admirable and despicable characters. Hopkins and Arnold remain symbols of financial and thespian success.

Hollywood has a bad record for disapproving of movies solely on the basis of profit. I would love to see "Shortcut to Happiness" go into post-production, be subjected to a diverse array of test audiences after a skillful rewrite. The issues that concerned Stephen Vincent Benet in 1937 are alive and with us all today in almost every area of business, politics, entertainment, and government. Success is whatever you can get away with.

Audiences will go to see bad movies. But Hollywood only seems to take the loving and meticulously-artistic care to produce two or three cinematic gems each year. Whoever had the final say in terms of condemning this movie wasted time, money, and the potential for achieving what its creators had in mind when the idea was but an inspiration culled from reading the classic and wishing to update it.

If one of my students had submitted this movie script to me, I would have said, "Promising rough draft," and suggest various ways to improve it with my reasons for doing so.

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