`Practical Magic' conjures up an un-bewitching brew
Stars: Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman and Aidan Quinn
Theaters: Palace 12, Eastland, Movies 8, Admiral Drive-in
and Cinema 8 (Broken Arrow, Sand Springs)
Studio: Warner Bros.
Running Time: 110 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (language, violence)
Quality: Two stars (on a scale of zero to four stars)
Eye of newt, wing of bat, bits and pieces of old
`Bewitched` TV episodes, a pinch of `The Exorcist,` a
Stevie Nicks song. Stir them all up and you have the
cinematic witch's brew that is `Practical Magic.`
Part romantic comedy, part horror story, part feminist
treatise, part New Age nostrum, this mishmash of a movie
conjures up lots of interesting ideas, but it doesn't
sufficiently follow through on any of them. The result is
an ambitious but disjointed and overburdened picture that
ends up being mostly un-bewitching.
Directed by sometime-actor Griffin Dunne and penned by a
trio of screenwriters, `Practical Magic,` based on the
popular novel by Alice Hoffman, rises and falls on the
peculiar chemistry of Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as
sisters who happen to be witches.
Descended from a Puritan-era sorceress who was jilted by
her lover and later cast a curse on all men everafter who
would love an Owens woman, Sally and Gillian Owens (Bullock
and Kidman) are modern-day descendants of this
spell-caster, and they embrace two very different responses
to their man-killer plight.
The sisters were raised on a picturesque New England
island by their two enchanted aunts, Frances (Stockard
Channing) and Jet (Dianne Wiest), and are taught the
ancient arts of their family's `craft` from childhood.
Knowing the curse that hangs over their love lives, the
saucy, flirtatious Gillian grows up and sets out on a
reckless, cross-country rampage of romance with many, many
men, while the sensible, bookish Sally stays home and vows
to live a loveless life.
However, Sally can't resist when a hunky young island
worker casts goo-goo eyes her way, and for a time she
enjoys a blissful marriage that blesses her with two
spirited daughters -- until the dreaded Owens curse visits
her poor, unfortunate hubby.
Widowed, Sally moves back in with her eccentric aunts,
and in short order she receives a call for help from
wayward Gillian, who's gotten herself involved with an
abusive Bulgarian lover named Jimmy (Goran Visnijic), a
ghoulish cowboy who just might be a serial killer.
Anyway, in a dark series of turns, Jimmy ends up dead,
and the sisters desperately resort to witchcraft to avoid
trouble with the law. However, Jimmy's bad mojo soon rises
from the grave to complicate things, and a nosy cop named
Gary Hallett (Aidan Quinn), who has been tracking Jimmy for
some time, starts hanging around the Owens place, making
cosmic connections with Sally.
Much credit must go to Bullock and Kidman and cast for
enlivening what is ultimately a contrived story that ranges
all over the narrative compass. As the bad-girl Gillian,
Kidman invests lots of sass and unconventional attitude in
the role. Bullock, in her usual wholesome girl next door
mode, doesn't seem particularly challenged here, but she's
pretty, perky and enjoyable to watch as counterpart to her
sister's slutty mischief.
That, and some upbeat but muddled messages about female
bonding, keep the picture from being totally hexed.
Without a consistent tone or any real measure of
emotional consistency, `Practical Magic` occasionally
manages to bubble, but it's barely worth the toil and