Reviewed by: W.J. Kimble
There is a subtle message which overlays the plot of this movie: there are “good” witches and there are “bad” witches. The witches in “Practical Magic” are, of course, good witches. Griffin Dunne, who directed this movie, worked hard at portraying these witches as something to be admired and not to be afraid of. He even has the town folk, who once harassed them, eventually help them exorcise an evil creature. At the end of the movie, Dunne even throws in a scene, where our proud heroines appear in the same outfits as the wicked witch of the East in the “Wizard of Oz” (down to a close-up shot of the now famous candy striped socks). Meanwhile, the town folk are seen cheering them with glee. Dunne wants us to be dismayed when they are misaligned and he wants us to rejoice when good things happen to them.
This concept, while making the story line more enjoyable, is far from the truth. God tells us, in Deut 18:10-12, “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD….” Notice that God says there is NO such thing as a good witch, “for all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD.” So, even though I enjoyed the movie, I must reinforce the Biblical mandate that the premise of “Practical Magic” is Biblically incorrect.
As the movie begins, we discover that the Owens family, for over 200 years, has been living under a curse. This curse, which oddly afflicts any man who marries the Owens girls (with sudden death), has led the people of the town to shun and harass them every time they appear in town. Realizing that the fate of this curse would someday befall her, the young Sally Owens (Camilla Belle, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”), uses an old potion to conjure up a man that she is convinced could never exist; and thereby spare her the pain of losing a loved one. In this spell, she stipulates that he must have one blue eye and one green eye; he must be able to flip pancakes in the air; and he must have a star on his chest.
Now adults, Sally and her sister, Gillian Owens (Nicole Kidman, “Far and Away”), find themselves face-to-face with the curse. Gillian, having moved to Arizona, dalliances with several men, never allowing herself to truly fall in love with any of them. Sally (Sandra Bullock, “Hope Floats”), still living with her aunts Jet (Dianne Wiest, “Far and Away”) and Frances (Stockard Channing, “The First Wives Club”), falls head-over-heels with Michael (Mark Feuerstein) and eventually marries him. After bearing 2 children, Sally hears the ominous sound of the deathwatch beetle, whose sound alerts her to the impending doom of her lover. Frantically, she begins to tear up the floor in a feeble attempt to capture the beetle and silence his call. But, alas, she fails and Michael is killed.
Meanwhile, Gillian ends up with a psychotic cowboy, Jimmy Angelov (Goran Visnjic, “The Peacemaker”). Sally, after receiving a psychic SOS from Gillian, meets up with the two and accidentally poisons Jimmy with belladonna. To cover their tracks, the two sisters first conjure up a spell to resurrect him, but only end up killing him again when he tries to harm them. Being forced to bury him in their aunts front yard, the two become keenly aware that Jimmy’s spirit is alive and waiting to do them great harm. Gary Hallet (Aidan Quinn, “The Assignment”, “Benny and Joon”), sent to investigate the murder of Jimmy, falls in love with Sally and the rest is sheer magic.
Due to many cultic practices shown in the film (along with undead spirits, the usual swear words and sensuality), “Practical Magic” receives its PG-13 rating. Some scenes may frighten younger viewers. I would advise extreme caution to those contemplating the viewing of this movie with younger ones. Please take the time to explain to your children, especially your teen-agers, about the pitfalls of the occult. This includes horoscopes, psychics, astrologers and the new age beliefs. God forbids us to practice these things and warns us to stay far away from its influence.
Year of Release—1998