Director: Griffin Dunne
100 minutess (12) 1998 widescreen 2.35:1 Warner DVD
review by Jeff Young
Compare and contrast this quirky but predictable and safe romantic fantasy with
superior chiller, The Craft, and any number of downmarket, direct-to-video
horrors about ouija boards. What this lacks, and they all have in common, is a sense of
conviction in the supernatural material without any hedging or double meanings.
Practical Magic wants to be a creepy tale of three generations
of witches, and a family curse, but it falls too easily into pleading for tolerance of
pagans, and cinematic metaphors about obsession and childish wishes fulfilled.
Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman are orphans raised by maiden aunts -
both traditional witches casting spells over a bubbling cauldron of animal, vegetable
and mineral. While flighty adventuress Gillian (Kidman, not especially convincing as a
slut here) leaves town, sister Sally (Bullock, adorably wifey) the homemaker settles
down with doomed husband and two pretty daughters. Things turn nasty when Gill is
assaulted by brooding Croatian cowboy, Goran Visnjic (new regular heartthrob on TV
hospital drama ER), who returns to haunt the family estate as a ghoulish spectre
after Sal - unwittingly - poisons him. Real world troubles then intrude as state
investigator Aidan Quinn arrives in town on the trail of murderous lover boy Visnjic.
As we have already seen whispered suspicions of the local people turn to open hostility
in a moment of witchy finger-pointing, the deplorably feelgood ending - complete with
Mary Poppins in-jokes - is a terrible letdown I'm afraid, revealing as it does
that this movie was made with a heart of juvenile fun instead of a mind for serious
drama. All told, Practical Magic is closer to Disney's lifeless Hocus Pocus
than Nicolas Roeg's brilliant The Witches.
DVD extras: respectable. Scene access in 30 chapters, three subtitled
languages plus feature-length commentary by producer Denise Di Novi, director Dunne,
Bullock and composer Alan Silvestri. The flipside of this disc has two short behind-the-scenes
documentaries featuring interviews with the cast, director, producer and novelist Alice
Hoffman, also TV advert.
originally published in VideoVista #15 (June 2000)
Guide to the Movies
compiled by Tony
Lee editor of Pigasus Press
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