It may have been made all the way back in the distant pre-millennium era of 1998 and be filled with ideas so wacky you might begin to question your sanity, but Griffin Dunne’s Practical Magic is nothing short of enchanting. Featuring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as Sally and Gillian Owens, two children left in the care of their aunts following the death of their parents, the audience finds themselves immediately thrown into a world of love, magic, isolation and ancient curses.
The plot, though picking up on many previously exploited ideas, combines its themes in a truly magical way. A series of universal themes, from isolation and loss, to love and sisterhood help to engage almost anyone choosing to watch, and it’s the unique blend of the above, with an added dash of aversion to magic, that helps to create a refreshing twist on your usual magical escapade or chick flick. Though perhaps some sexual references and darker scenes may be a bit too much for the youngest of children, Practical Magic contains just the right balance of depth and magic to appeal to both adults and children alike time and time again.
Though some critics have questioned the film for a perceived lack of depth, it’s perhaps important to bear in mind the essence of the film; it is not a grainy, hard hitting drama, but a romantic chick flick with an added dose of magic. In a world full of distractions and decisions, part of the film’s timeless appeal stems from the opportunity to completely forget the complications of everyday life for a full hundred and four minutes. Whilst Dunne blends enough universal themes to ensure an empathetic audience, there’s exactly enough light-hearted fluff and magic to give an easy to follow plot and movie to relax to, too.
Another high point of the movie that cannot be ignored is that of the actors themselves. Stellar performances from both Bullock and Kidman, as well as the supporting performances of Stokard Channing and Dianne Wiest as the two aunts, perfectly capture the spirit of the moment, whether it’s midnight margaritas or simply the bond of sisterly love. You really don’t need to be a die-hard fan of any of the actors to appreciate their performances and get swept away in the swing of it all, whether relishing the fear or laughter bought about by the film.