Volume 92, Issue 25

Tuesday, October 20, 1998

coughing up debt


Magic practically tiresome

Graphic by Brahm Wiseman

By Nina Chiarelli
Gazette Staff

Just in time for Halloween, director Griffin Dunne of Addicted to Love fame brings us a bewitchingly feel-good tale of magic, spells, family and love. Based on Alice Hoffman's best-selling first novel, Practical Magic stars Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as two unlucky-in-love witch sisters and combines all the necessary elements for a great chick flick.

In Practical Magic, Sally and Gillian Owens (played by Bullock and Kidman respectively), must try to overcome a curse that has befallen the Owens women since a relative cast a spell on them over 300 years earlier. Any man truly loved by an Owens woman will inevitably meet with an untimely death.

Sent to live with their two spinster/hag aunts after the death of their mother, Sally and Gillian must adapt to the change, while living in a small-minded town with residents whose fear is only outdone by their nastiness. This drives Sally to vow never to fall in love, while Gillian runs away to embrace love without abandon. Needless to say this sets up Bullock as the girl-next-door lead, with Kidman taking a bad girl backseat.

Practical Magic contains everything needed for a '90s take on an age old story about witches – two spinster aunts, an unsuccessful hanging, a beautiful big scary house, unjust persecution and of course, a love story that will make you believe.

Talented, big name Hollywood actresses Diane Wiest and Stockard Channing round out the cast as Aunt Jet and Aunt Frances, with Aidan Quinn playing Sally's love interest/state trooper.

Practical Magic has a cute story-line and will appeal to girls everywhere, especially with the Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman selling point. But what it lacks is a focused plot, witty dialogue and more interaction between the characters.

Half way through the movie, aunts Jet and Frances disappear so Sally and Gillian can solve their man troubles. What seems like an alright idea and a push for self-reliance backfires because compared to the eccentric and kooky aunts, Sally and Gillian do become a little tiresome. This movie could also benefit from some special effects, considering it deals with the occult.

Aidan Quinn's portrayal of Sally's spell-conjured Det. Gary Hallett, is only marred by his unconvincing Arizonian accent. Despite this defect, it's too bad he doesn't show up earlier because there is definite chemistry between Bullock and Quinn.

Although Sally and Gillian evoke empathy from the audience, there is almost a disjointed feeling. Sure, most people are not witches and cannot really relate, but who goes to the movies for everyday stories of real life? Yet with an ad which claims, "There's a little witch in every woman," Practical Magic will have female audiences everywhere spellbound.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998