Friday, February 22, 2013

Practical Magic (movie review)

Practical Magic (Wikipedia)

Practical Magic is a 1998 American romantic comedy film based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Alice Hoffman. The film was directed by Griffin Dunne and stars Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Stockard Channing, Dianne Wiest, Aidan Quinn and Goran Višnjić. The film score was composed by Alan Silvestri.

Bullock and Kidman play sisters Sally and Gillian Owens, who have always known they were different from each other. Raised by their aunts after their parents' death, the sisters grew up in a household that was anything but typical--their aunts fed them chocolate cake for breakfast and taught them the uses of practical magic. But the invocation of the Owens' sorcery also carries a price--some call it a curse: the men they fall in love with are doomed to an untimely death. Now adult women with very different personalities, the quiet Sally and the fiery Gillian must use all of their powers to fight the family curse and a swarm of supernatural forces that could take away all the Owen's lives.


I have written a few movie reviews on these two blogs, and this is the first time that I would lean towards thumbs down. The protagonists, the two sisters, are basically likable enough; but I don't believe that they ever develop the charm that the producers had maybe intended. Beyond "the magic," they could have easily been two sisters from any background. I admit, I'm not a really big fan of romantic comedies, so perhaps I'm biased. The romantic portions of the movie, even then, didn't seem particularly special. The background scenery throughout the movie was very pleasant, but there never was any serenity or genuine spirituality attacked to it. Sometimes, even with a very average movie, I appreciate the scenery and mood. I just don't think that the characters really developed here. I understand that they weren't trying to make 'I Dream of Jeannie' or 'Charmed' type of characters.

Some Christian fundamentalists have pointed to movies such as this one as examples of "witchcraft being portrayed as cool" by Hollywood. In fact, "witchery" and "magic" are portrayed here as the source of endless problems over generations (and daily!) and really as something that should be avoided! I didn't even think that the family in general was particularly different beyond the magical part of it. They could have easily passed for a marginally aloof family. In other words, the portrayal of a person or people as "different" can take many forms; and I just think they failed to achieve this in any form... not even a subtle one. If someone wanted to view this movie from strictly a "romantic comedy" point of view, then it would be about average maybe. It then could be thought as just people dealing with their situation(s).

I wanted to clarify that even in a movie with a similar magical theme, like 'The Wicker Man' (the original), there are some moments of serenity which reflected the spirituality of the culture portrayed. The 'Wicker Man' was a violent movie too. At the start of 'Practical Magic', it shows one of their ancestors about to be hanged for being a witch. Before she is hanged, she leaps off of the plank and the rope breaks as she safely lands on her feet.... and everyone runs away in fear. This seemed to set the stage for things to come, but it just didn't happen. There was one scene where Sandra Bullock was in her new "witch store," and her daughter was outside being called a witch by other children of the town. As she started to walk towards the door to go outside, she nonchalantly said to her friends/co-owners something like "you'd think after 300 years they would come up with a better line than that." The line was delivered, characterized, and cut in a way that lacked charm, passion, humor, or even anger... and I think that sort've metaphorically defined this film.

FUN FACT: The origin of the word "Hollywood" comes from the making of a "magic wand" in Druidic culture. A true magic wand can only be made from the wood of a holly tree.


No comments:

Post a Comment