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Practical Magic review
Hold on to your husbands, girls!


For two hundred years, the Owens women have been plagued with rumours that they are practicing witches. The fact that the rumours are true doesn't make it much easier to bear.

All Owens women are afflicted with a curse; that any man who they fall in love with will die, soon after she hears the ticking of the Deathwatch beetle.

When Sally Owens's mother died (of a broken heart, following their father), she and her younger sister, Gillian, ended up living with their aunts, Frances and Jet. They are constantly teased by the neighborhood children, a mixture of hatred and fear ("Witch! Witch! You're a bitch!"). As teenagers, Gillian ends up running away with an increasing variety of unsavory men, while Sally stays at home with her aunts, feeling lonely and trapped and depressed.

Despite a spell she worked as a child, which was supposed to prevent her from falling in love by binding her to an ideal man she was sure didn't exist, Sally ends up falling in love with a local man and starting a family. They have two daughters – Owens's women only seem to have daughters – and life seems perfect. Until Sally hears the ticking of the deathwatch beetle.

Moving in with her aunts, she's depressed once more, despite having her two daughters there to cheer her up. Then she gets a call from Gillian, and things get dramatic again.

Gillian (Nicole Kidman) and Jimmy (Goran Visnjic)

Gillian's boyfriend, Jimmy Angelov, turns abusive, and kidnaps both Sally and Gillian. Sally uses Belladonna to knock him out, and accidentally gives him too much, killing him.

After a few more events they think they've got away with it. Until that is, a detective turns up that Sally just can't lie to, and the really weird stuff starts happening.

Sally and Gillian Owens are played, respectively, by Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Surprisingly, they are completely believable as sisters, much more so than Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones in America's Sweethearts. Gillian is the more dramatic and provocative sister, who isn't afraid to use her talents, while Sally is the more straight-laced, although magically more powerful one. All she wants to be accepted by the other mothers in the town. Unfortunately, most of these are the same girls who teased her as a child.

Gillian, Sally, Officer Hallett, and Sally's children

The other main set of sisters in the movie, Frances and Jet, are played by, respectively, Stockard Channing and Diane Wiest. They are absent during some of the more dramatic scenes, purposefully, in an effort to make Sally come to terms with her power. During the scenes where they are actually present, they are adorable, funny, and slightly drunken.

Officer Gary Hallett (Aidan Quinn) isn't entirely believable as Sally's love interest. On the other hand, Jimmy Angelov, played by Goran Visnjić completely steals the show. He's both sexy and scary.

The film is an odd cross between a horror film and a romantic comedy. Some of the dialogue is funny, although Sandra Bullock has a problem with a few lines, and Nicole Kidman's accent occasionally wanders back to her native Australian. Much of the latter half of the film is genuinely scary. I watched it for what must have been the fifth time a few days ago, and I still had to hide under a blanket. My sister and I are now unable to hear the song You Were Always On My Mind due to it's use as Jimmy's theme in this movie. This also leads to some humour, on the part of the drunken aunts, who, when asked where the alcohol came from, sing "Someone left it on the porch…Someone left it on the porch!"

The Owens house used in the film was custom built for the movie, and it was definitely worth it. The house is rambling and mysterious, and once the movie starts getting creepy, it has lots of atmosphere and spooky lighting that the director, Griffin Dunne, makes good use of. The film is always fairly accurate in it's portrayal of Witchcraft, which takes some elements from Wicca and from traditional fantasy elements. It also doesn't make the mistake of mistaking Witchcraft for Wizardry or vice versa.

In summary, Practical Magic is a slick, neat, somewhat romantic and yet scary film, with some smart observational humour, and great performances from some famous actress, who, despite their fame, manage to be believable as the characters. The ending is neatly wrapped up, and somewhat happy; despite being clichéd, this actually improves the film as a whole. Sometimes clichés are clichés for a reason.

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