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Home > ‘Practical Magic’ (1998): A Review

‘Practical Magic’ (1998): A Review

Sandra Bullock as Gillian Owens and Nicole Kidman as Sally Owens. Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The First Of A Romantic Witchy Series

Dead Talk News recently reported on Practical Magic 2 officially being confirmed to be in development and will be bringing back main cast members Nicole Kidman (who portrays Sally Owens) and Sandra Bullock (who portrays Gillian Owens). To celebrate this great witchy return, it’s time to look back on the source film twenty-five years ago Griffin Dune directed Practical Magic in 1998, a film about family, romance, and suddenness of death based on the 1995 novel by Alice Hoffman. The Warner Bros. Pictures film follows the witchy Owens sisters as they learn to deal with a family curse that kills the men they fall in love with. Between all the witch themed films of the ‘90s, Practical Magic tugged at the most heartstrings.

Plot 

This story is an adventure and a half. The film begins with the origin story of the Owens family curse with ancestor Maria Owens surviving an execution attempt after being outed as a witch. When the father of her unborn child fails to return to her, she casts a spell on herself to never fall in love again. This spell then passed through the generations until it eventually affected Sally and Gillian’s father. The film continues to follow the grown sisters as they learn to love and grieve again and again. Despite the somber motifs of the story, much of the film is lighthearted and comedic. The sisters’ bond (along with their eccentric aunts) pulls the abstract story along through scenes that range from childish magical fun to accidentally murdering a man. The two of them know they have to make mistakes on their own, but they never leave the other stranded. 

Practical Magic does a great job of telling a deep and touching story. What it lacks, however, is a consistent tone. The atmosphere of the film effectively expresses the emotions of the scenes, even though the film struggles to figure out if it’s a comedy or a tragedy. Though this inconsistency would usually hurt most stories, the intentional campiness of Practical Magic makes it more charming. Akin to a daytime soap opera, this witchy movie is a beautiful trainwreck with a stunning score. This feminist tale of sisterhood, despite its silliness, is bound to affect the audience in some way. After all, the story is still being brought up today.

Characters/ Acting 

Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock are both fantastic Hollywood actors. However, this film is unfortunately not their strongest work. In their defense, due to the fast-paced story, the characters aren’t given much time to feel fleshed out and real. Almost nothing in the film is believable, which is quite frankly part of the charm. Sally and Gillian are sisters whose lives are shaped by their own fears and preconceived notions of the world. Sally understands she will live without a lover so she goes through many, meanwhile Gillian tried to fight back romance but succumbed to it. Aside from Gillian’s daughters who are near clones of Sally and Gillian there are the sisters’ aunts. Stockard Channing (known for her role in Grease) and Dianne West (known for her role in Edward Scissorhands) play the eccentric aunts of the Owens sisters who strive to keep the family’s past mistakes from repeating. If a prequel should ever be made in the future, it should be about those two.

The cast of this film does not deliver any extremely powerful performances, but no other actors would fit the story as they did. It has been twenty-five years since the original film has been released and so far only Kidman and Bullock are set to return. Though little is known about their importance for the sequel, one can only expect that their acting and devotion to the characters have improved. Fans can only hope that the campiness of the characters will still remain.

Cinematography/Aesthetic

The whimsigoth aesthetic has been trending on social media apps like TikTok and Instagram in the last few years and this film perfects that vision like no other. Due to the fast-paced plot, the film turns the bulk of its attention to the mise-en-scene of the film. Filled with a misty atmosphere, magical lighting, and welcoming homes, the film has a coziness that brings a feeling of comfort in what’s an odd and dramatic story. Even the storms seem to bring a sense of wonder. Enchanting sceneries such as the greenhouse and ocean views aren’t only for aesthetics, they also serve a purpose. There is a lack of close-up shots since many of the scenes use the surrounding environment as an indicator of the characters’ feelings. Like a gothic fairytale, the setting shifts to the whims of the characters. The scene of the sisters and aunts having midnight margaritas especially gives off a fun unconventional energy. 

What affects this film the most is the soundtrack. Composed by Alan Silvestri, Practical Magic’s theme repeats throughout the film to represent the humanness and magic of the story. The song forces the viewer to want to get up and dance. Like a lullaby disguised as a party song. Fans can also look further and listen to the official soundtrack which features artists such as Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell, and the white witch herself, Stevie Nicks. If the acting and fast plot negatively impacts a viewer’s watch of this film, the environment it sets in will be enough to keep them staying for more.

Final Rating 

The story of the Owens sisters’ encouragement towards individuality is not one to miss. While it may not be an Oscar-nominated feature that exceeds film critics’ desires, it started a tight-knit cult following in the years after. What was once negatively criticized has now lived on through merchandise, tattoos, tiktok trends, and the like. Until more information on the sequel is released, Practical Magic can be streamed on HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video.

Practical Magic (1998) Original Theatrical Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Author

With a bachelor's degree in Film and Media Studies from Arizona State University, Ashley has a passion for the history of filmmaking and how audiences share a relationship with publicized media. Her love for the horror genre as well as feminist themes runs deep.

Hi! I am a Dramatic Writing and Performing Arts major at SCAD from Puerto Rico. I have an intense passion for all things film, tv, and music. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and putting it out there is the most important.