Practical Magic (1998)
Directed by Griffin Dunne
Written by Alice Hoffman, Robin Swicord, Akiva Goldsman, Adam Brooks
Produced by Denise Di Novi, Robin Swicord, Bruce Berman, Mary McLaglen
Starring Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Aidan Quinn, Goran Visnjic, Stockard Channing, Dianne Wiest, Evan Rachel Wood, Alexandra Artrip
If he learned anything at all from the filmmakers (Landis, Scorsese, Heckerling, Zieff, et al.) for whom he’s performed or his famed father Dominick, it’s how to gratify an audience; obviously less deft behind than before a camera, director Dunne aimed low at an easy target by adapting fluff penned for hausfrauen in the vomitous vein of the siblings Marshall to appease that very demographic. Descended from a line of witches ostracized in their insular Massachusetts town, and so beshrewed that every man with whom they share true love is iced by some mishap or other, sisters Bullock and Kidman cope fecklessly by converse means, the former eschewing sorcery to raise her daughters (Wood, Artrip) in dull domestic placidity as the latter wantons trashily in the southwest. Conventional abuse, a resulting manslaughter and demonic possession reunites them as predictably (and adorably!) as the crow flies. Scarcely bearable (albeit wildly overproduced) during its first hour, this chick flick shot by numbers shifts insufferably from a menstrual to menopausal milieu during a third act wherein an exorcism conducted to expel the wraith of her murderous beau (Visnjic) from Kidman’s body assumes the inanity of a Tupperware party certain to spellbind suburban shrews and repulse all others possessing an IQ exceeding ’98. Everyone present save Quinn overacts with sufficient sustained pressure to burst blood vessels, especially Kidman and Channing, the latter of whom apes an especially deviling Hepburn impression. Alan Silvestri’s saccharine score (in the idiom of his music for The Odd Couple II) drips like drizzled treacle from this cloying Halloween fruitcake surfeited with exposition and explicit in its focus on male expendability for witless women bound for the spinsterhood this story inadvertently promotes, if not some other household malaise. Where’s Witchfinder General Vincent Price when we need him?

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