Practical Magic (1998) starring Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Stockard Channing, Dianne Wiest, Goran Visnjic, Aidan Quinn, Evan Rachel Wood, Alexandra Artrip directed by Griffin Dunne Movie Review

Practical Magic (1998)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Sandra Bullock as Sally Owens in Practical Magic

Impractical Rather Than Magical

Confused is what watching "Practical Magic" left me, not because it has some twisting intelligent storyline but because I just don't know who "Practical Magic" has been made for. It has a touch of comedy, a touch of romance, a bit of drama, a bit of bonding as well as female empowerment and unsurprisingly a touch of the supernatural as well but a supernatural element which is too scary for young children and not scary enough for adults. It just doesn't seem to target one particular audience and if that mix does then I am certainly not in that select group.

Sally (Sandra Bullock - Hope Floats) and Gillian Owens (Nicole Kidman - Malice) are not only sisters but they are witches as well which makes life for them a little awkward because in the New England town where they live the towns folk don't like them. If that wasn't bad enough all Owens women suffer from a curse, a curse which means that the men they fall in love with are destined for early death. Having been taught of their unfortunate heritage by their two aunts, Sally and Gillian are now going to experience it for themselves at first hand.

Nicole Kidman as Gillian Owens in Practical Magic

What is very apparent is that "Practical Magic" is a movie of 3 parts a build up which gives us the back stories to the Owen women and the curse which befalls them, and then it goes into a more dramatic storyline about troubled love which then not so much merges but jars into the third more romantic chapter. It's heavy handed giving it almost a feeling of three separate movies, connected pretty much by the curse and little else and as such doesn't have that flow which brings it all together. In fact "Practical Magic" is based upon a novel by Alice Hoffman and although I haven't read the novel I would hazard a guess that much of what strings it all together has been lost in the adaptation to the big screen.

Aside from the issue over how it jars it also seems to be trying too hard to be something for everyone. The moments of comedy are mildly entertaining such as the self stirring cup of coffee but they don't really make you laugh. When it hits the dramatic section it feels completely different too what has gone before, heavier but not overly heavy. Then there is the romantic side which is as obvious as it comes and although really being the main point of the storyline adds little to it. And to finish off you have the supernatural witchcraft side of things which as already mentioned is to dark for younger audiences but by no means dark enough for adults. The whole mix just doesn't come together and with the heavily manufactured bonding and female empowerment scene featuring dancing around a table it left me bewildered to who "Practical Magic" was aimed at.

Adding to the mystery as to who "Practical Magic" is aimed at it has an almost sexuality/ male fantasy about it with Nicole Kidman playing an almost vixen like, flirtatious sister with snake hips, whilst Sandra Bullock plays the more homely one who looks fit in vest tops and tight denim shorts. It's as if elements have been thrown in to appeal to a male audience dragged along to watch it and although Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock pull of sexy it's another element which doesn't quite fit in.

As for Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock well both do reasonably well to make interesting characters especially Nicole Kidman who vamps it up as the flirtatious man loving Gillian Owens. But they both suffer from the whole disjointed storyline which sees their characters change with little reason and take part in some seriously overly manufactured bonding scenes. As for the men in the movie well they might as well have not been there because whilst Aidan Quinn and Goran Visnjic give fun performances there characters are weak.

The most annoying thing about "Practical Magic" is that the two best performances come from the two women who get nowhere near enough screen time and they are Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest as the two aunts. They create quirky old style, almost stereotypical witches but they are such good fun that they light up the screen whenever they appear, they just don't appear nearly enough.

What this all boils down to is that "Practical Magic" whilst having some entertaining moments and amusing scenes just confuses me. It seems to be trying to deliver something for everyone yet it fails ending up an almost mishmash of different elements which never completely work and jar with each other. I just don't know who the target audience is but for those who do find themselves loving it are doing better than me.