It’s hard not to like Practical Magic. It has a talented cast, wonderful music, and beautiful cinematography. The one thing that Practical Magic doesn’t have is a cohesive script to make all the good elements stick together.
Practical Magic is like a witch’s brew. To conjure up this brew, throw in one part drama, one part whodunnit, two parts romance, and a sprinkle of supernatural. This is the largest failure of Practical Magic. Once the movie settles into a comfortable genre it jumps out and goes into another. This is jarring for the audience and never gives the audience anything to hang on to.
Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman) Owens are sisters. They are from a long line of witches. The curse of the Owens women is that each man they fall in love with will eventually die before his time. Sally and Gillian are outcasts in their small town because their witch aunts (Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing) raised them both as witches.
There are a few subplots in Practical Magic. One talks about Sally’s children and husband. Another talks about a murder and an investigation headed by an outsider, Gary Hallet (Aidan Quinn). Then there is a story of a lost soul, one of a romance between a sister and Hallet, and finally one about the town’s rejection of the Owens family. With all these subplots, the story is quite unfocused. Though, it didn’t have to be if the script were smarter and the director sharper.
Aidan Quinn’s was the one good performance that stood out. His lonely but strong cop is the best of the characters in Practical Magic. His performance is also the best. His character gets stuck in a sticky situation when he falls in love with a witch that is probably a murderer.
Sandra Bullock does nothing new with her part. She continues to try to regain what popularity she lost with her flop, Speed 2. Bullock brings back her girl-next-door act making Practical Magic feel somewhat like a witch’s version of Hope Floats.
Nicole Kidman is good as the bad sister. Kidman just looks different in Practical Magic. Her performance is slinky and snake-like. It was a pure joy to watch Kidman onscreen.
The script by Robin Swicord and Akiva (Lost in Space and Batman and Robin) Goldsman and Adam Brooks is an absolute mess. The script is based on Alice Hoffman’s book by the same name. Practical Magic just drips of Goldsman’s bad writing. In most cases, books are better than the movies made from them. And in most cases screenwriters are smart enough to cut out some subplots from books because of time restraints. Swicord, Goldsman, and Brooks are not this smart. It feels as if they tried to squeeze every subplot from the book into a two-hour script.
Practical Magic is nothing magical. Nor is it anything new. There is no real target audience for Practical Magic because it drifts from one genre to another. But it is somewhat entertaining. If you really want to see Practical Magic, wait until it comes out on video.
Edited by Cher Johnson.