Weekly Wire
Metro Pulse Videos a Go-Go

Magic Unrealism.

By Coury Turczyn

APRIL 19, 1999:  No matter how many Christian watchdog groups assail Hollywood, movie and television studios haven't ceased their ungodly preoccupation with the occult. And while said watchdogs'll probably forgive the use of vampires or demons—after all, these creatures of Satan usually get vanquished in the end—they must be really burned over the media's recent coddling of witches. Whether it's Sabrina the teen-age witch or the girls of Charmed, the everyday use of witchcraft by spunky, hip hotties now seems to be just hunky-dory fine. But what we really ought to be offended by is how mediocre much of this entertainment is.

Case in point is Practical Magic (PG-13) the Hollywood adaptation (dissolution?) of the novel by Alice Hoffman. The exquisitely lit Sandra Bullock stars as a reluctant witch in a whole family of witches who live under an age-old curse: any man they fall in love with will die. Bullock, of course, falls in love; the guy gets hit by a truck, so she gets really mopey. Her fast-lane sister (Nicole Kidman), meanwhile, is shacked up with an abusive Albanian; they try to get rid of him. This is the only semblance of a plot that Practical Magic offers; otherwise, it meanders about in no particular direction, creating little in the way of genuine humor, conflict, or character development. When it comes to presenting a theme, director Griffin Dunne thinks it's enough to show overlong music video montages of the girls bonding over margaritas, soundtrack pumping. The we-are-all-sisters "message" reaches its apex of silliness near movie's end when all the small-town housewives—who previously showed only fear and disdain for the witches—suddenly decide to gleefully join with them in Witch Power Sisterhood. Why? Because the script said so.

Much more successful at tackling the whole witchcraft-as-sisterhood theme is 1987's The Witches of Eastwick (R)—and it's also a hell of a lot more entertaining. Based on the novel by the decidedly male John Updike, it stars Susan Sarandon, Cher, and Michelle Pfeiffer as three lonely women who sexually liberate themselves by conjuring up Satan (Jack Nicholson) as their boytoy. One reason why Eastwick works better thematically is because its witches are given a wonderful adversary: the wildly hammy Nicholson, lampooning his own reputation for testosterone-charged womanizing with an over-the-top performance. Another reason is the fact that director George Miller has a deliciously wicked sense of humor; although critics decried his lack of restraint, it makes for raunchy fun—something the solemnly self-important Practical Magic never comes close to providing.

For a somewhat dated but still very fun bit of everyday witchcraft, pick up 1958's Bell, Book and Candle, with Kim Novak as a young witch who tries to refrain from using her powers, but who can't resist putting a spell on Jimmy Stewart. Surely nobody'd want to burn her at the stake, not even Christian watchdogs or feminist critics.

Weekly Wire Suggested Links

Page Back Last Issue Current Issue Next Issue Page Forward

Film & TV: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Cover . News . Film . Music . Arts . Books . Comics . Search

Weekly Wire    © 1995-99 DesertNet, LLC . Metro Pulse . Info Booth . Powered by Dispatch