`Practical Magic' conjures up an un-bewitching brew

"Practical Magic"

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

trouble.