Practical Magic

Reviewed by Van T. Tran

Special Edition DVD

Warner, widescreen 2.35:1/16x9, languages: English DD 5.1 [CC], French DD 5.1, subtitles: English, French, double side-single layer, 31 chapters, rated PG-13, 104 min., $24.98, street date 2/16/99.


  • 2 Featurettes: "Casting the Spell" and "Making Magic"
  • Commentary by Sandra Bullock, Producer Denise Di Novi, Director Griffin Dunne and Composer Alan Silvestri
  • 1 Theatrical Trailer & 3 TV Spots
  • "Secret Potion" Game

Studio Line

Directed by Griffin Dunne. Starring Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Dianne Wiest, Stockard Channing, Aidan Quinn, Goran Visnjic.

Sally (SANDRA BULLOCK) and Gillian (NICOLE KIDMAN) Owens have always known they were different. Raised by their aunts after their parents' death, the sisters grew up in a household that was anything but typical-rules were for other people. The little girls ate chocolate cake for breakfast, stayed up late and studied spell books, practicing the ancient arts of white magic that had been handed down through their family from generation to generation.

Attempting to pass on the unique and powerful psychic heritage of the Owens women, Aunt Jet (DIANNE WIEST) and Aunt Frances (STOCKARD CHANNING) hope to give their nieces the strength that comes from the use of practical magic. But the invocation of the Owens' sorcery also carries a price-some call it a curse: the men they fall in love with are doomed to an untimely death.

Watching her aunts weave spells for the lonely and the lovelorn, the quieter Sally begins to realize what she has always felt to be true - that she will never find her soul mate. Trying to distance herself from her foremothers, she denies her powers and strives to build herself a 'normal,' magic-free life. The more fiery Gillian, reckless and restless and thrilled by her pull over men, embraces her powers and sets out on a tumbleweed existence that leaves a trail of broken hearts in her wake.

When Gillian meets Jimmy (GORAN VISNJIC), a malevolent drifter, she unwittingly sets off a chain of explosive events that brings police officer Gary Hallet (AIDAN QUINN) onto the family porch and into Sally's heart, while releasing a swarm of supernatural forces that threatens the lives of all the Owens women.

Picture/Sound/Extras (A/B/B-)

Despite the bewitching cast of Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, Practical Magic is less than an enchanting experience. Based on Alice Hoffman's bestselling novel, the screenplay nevertheless required the ingredients from three screenwriters and the resulting brew is bland and tedious. The patchy story fails to make much sense and never gains any sort of momentum. The supporting cast of Dianne Wiest, Stockard Channing, and Aidan Quinn is mostly wasted as their one-dimensional characters conveniently drop in and out without leaving much of an impression. While I could not recommend the movie, at the very least the supplemental materials in the DVD provided a decent diversion.

If I am not mistaken, this is Sandra Bullock's first appearance on a commentary track, as such I was curious about her experience. With producer Denise Di Novi as her companion, I find their cheerful and lively discussion quite enjoyable. Unfortunately director Griffin Dunne took up most of the track, which was recorded in a seperate session. I would routinely drift in and out during his dry commentary only to be snapped back when Bullock is on. Composer Alan Silvestri (Forrest Gump) also appeared briefly during the score highlights to expand insights to the composition. Silvestri made no mention as the last minute replacement of fellow composer Michael Nyman (Gattaca). If you are to purchase the CD soundtrack or visit the movie web site, the composer credit is still mistakenly given to Michael Nyman. The supplemental materials also include two behind-the-scenes featurettes that basically show cast and crew members praising and congratulating everyone in the project. But in order to unlock the 14-minute featurettes, you must first locate the hotspots scatter in the production notes for clues to the "Secret Potion" game. The movie and supplemental materials reside on seperate sides.

Coming from Warner, I expected an excellent transfer and once again I am not disappointed. The pristine picture is presented at the theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 and anamorphically enhanced for widescreen sets. All visual aspects are excellent and the beautiful locations in the San Juan Islands add to the pleasing visuals. The encoded 5.1 soundtrack produces a spacious and natural environment, just don't expect a very aggressive mix. The discrete effects did become quite prominent during the supernatural sequences toward the ending. The gentle and whimsical score of Alan Silvestri is enjoyable, but nothing remarkable.

Warner is doing the right thing by releasing Practical Magic at a very attactive price with some decent supplemental materials, but even at that it makes more practical sense to rent instead of owning as the movie holds little value in repeat viewing.

Related Sites

Current as of 2/16/99

  • Official Site--Contains detailed information on the production, with screensaver and tarot card reading.
  • San Francisco Examiner--"Practical Magic weaves a fun spell."
  • James Berardinelli's ReelViews--"Practical Magic falls short of being enchanting."
  • Original Sandra Bullock Image Site--Besides tons of images, you can also find biography, filmography, chat, links and more.
  • Nicole Kidman Online--"Welcome to Internet's largest site devoted to the career of Nicole Kidman, not her private life."
  • The Unofficial Stockard Channing Fan Site--Bio & filmography, news, reviews, interviews, links and much more.
  • The Unofficial Aidan Quinn Web Site--Bio & filmography, picture gallery, news and links.
  • The Witches: Myth & Reality--"The history of witches and witchcraft, from ancient pagan spirituality, through the persecution and mass killings in medieval Europe and colonial America, to the present day." Highly recommended for anyone who has even the slightest interest in witches!
  • TNT's Rough Cut--A full review of the original soundtrack featuring Stevie Nick and various artists: "This luke-warm cauldron featuring Stevie Nicks is more toil and trouble than it's worth."
  • to purchase are the DVD at 30% off, the paperback novel by Alice Hoffman, and the original soundtrack featuring Stevie Nick, Sheryl Crow, Faith Hill, and score composed by Alan Silvestri (not Michael Nyman as incorrectly credited).

    LinkExchange Network
Previous: Clear and Present Danger | Back to Main Page