Practical Magic

Mind-boggling miscalculations strangle this adaptation of Alice Hoffman's popular novel before it can find its feet. Orphans Gillian and Sally Owens (Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock) are benevolent witches, the fourth generation of Owens women who cast spells and brew up love philters on the kitchen stove. Raised by deeply eccentric aunties Frances and Jet...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Mind-boggling miscalculations strangle this adaptation of Alice Hoffman's popular novel before it can find its feet. Orphans Gillian and Sally Owens (Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock) are benevolent witches, the fourth generation of Owens women who cast spells and brew up love philters on the kitchen stove. Raised by deeply eccentric aunties Frances and Jet (Stockard Channing, Diane Wiest) in the shadow of the family curse -- any man who loves them is doomed -- the girls attempt to dodge cruel fate in wildly different ways. Serious brunette Sally hides beneath a cloak of normality: She gets married, starts a family and keeps a tidy house, until the click of a deathwatch beetle portends her husband's death in a bizarre accident. Red-headed Gill, by contrast, becomes a feckless slut, protecting her parade of male admirers by abandoning

them. That is, until she meets Jimmy Angelo (Goran Visnjic), a Euro-trash cowboy with some nasty secrets: He brings the sisters back together, though hardly in a way they might have anticipated or welcomed. You can see the outline of an interesting movie beneath the cutesy-pie characterizations and heavy-handed mockery of small-town small-mindedness, but any chance it might have had is short-circuited by director Griffin Dunne's overwhelming inability to establish a consistent tone for the admittedly off-kilter material. Dark fantasy shot through with edgy humor is a slippery proposition

and Dunne just isn't up to it, so the movie careens wildly from light farce to New Age, touchy-feely feminist parable to cheeseball horror: One minute Frances is counseling the girls that people don't hate them for being witches -- it's just that they don't understand -- the next minute Gillian is extruding toads. Bullock and Kidman, both talented and engaging actresses, deserve better.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Mind-boggling miscalculations strangle this adaptation of Alice Hoffman's popular novel before it can find its feet. Orphans Gillian and Sally Owens (Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock) are benevolent witches, the fourth generation of Owens women who cast spell… (more)

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