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Practical Magic

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Practical Magic

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman
Director: Griffin Dunne
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: October 1998
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Dianne Wiest, Stockard Channing, Aidan Quinn, Goran Visnjic, Evan Rachel Wood, Chloe Webb

Review by MrBrown
2 stars out of 4

Akiva Goldsman. If those two words don't strike fear in the hearts of moviegoers everywhere, I don't know what will. The _Lost_in_Space_ and _Batman_&_Robin_ scribe is true to sloppy form with _Practical_Magic_, a muddled melange of genres that fails to come up with a distinct identity.

Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman play Sally and Gillian Owens, respectively, sisters who carry on the family tradition of witchcraft. Slutty Gillian loves to use her powers, especially to lure men, while the reluctant but more powerful witch Sally yearns for a normal life--and a true love that, according to an apparent curse on all Owens women, can never come.

After the basic setup, _Practical_Magic_ heads in a number of divergent directions. The film is being sold as a whimsical lark, and at times the film is light and agreeable fluff, especially when Sally and Gillian's proud witch aunts Jet (Dianne Wiest) and Frances (Stockard Channing) are onscreen. But then there are the sober sister bonding scenes, where Sally and Gillian, generally teary-eyed, profess their love for and devotion to each other. Then there's a taste of macabre comedy, where the sisters find themselves disposing of the body of a man whose death they accidentally caused. This sets the stage for a romantic subplot between Sally and the police officer (Aidan Quinn) investigating the man's death. Lest we forget this is a movie about witches, events take a turn toward straight horror, with an evil spirit threatening the life of Gillian and everyone and everything around her.

The all-encompassing scope of _Practical_Magic_ would not be a problem if these elements blended into a convincing whole; _Ghost_ proved that it is not an impossible task. But the reason why that film was able to successfully cover a number of bases was that, for all its genre-hopping, it had a clearly defined central concern: the undying love between the two main characters. Goldsman, co-scripters Robin Swicord and Adam Brooks (adapting Alice Hoffman's novel), and director Griffin Dunne don't appear to have a central concern other than to try to make the film as many things as possible to all people. As the film jumps from place to place, so does one's idea of what the film is exactly about. Witchcraft? Sally's search for love? Sally and Gillian's relationship? The evil spirit? The Owens women's "curse"? Anyone's guess is as good as mine.

If the makers of _Practical_Magic_ had kept things simple, it could have been an amusing little popcorn flick. As in all her films, Bullock is instantly likable, and Kidman is fun as the wild witch. That said, the two have little sisterly chemistry, which brings to mind a direction the film could have taken: the comical feud between two rival sister witches, one reckless, the other reluctant but more powerful. OK, maybe that's not such a great idea. But at least it's a clear direction, something the unfocused _Practical_Magic_ is in constant search of.

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