Practical Magic

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Practical Magic Movie Poster Image
Quirky, uneven romcom with some witchy violence.
  • PG-13
  • 1998
  • 103 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Some strong positive messages about family and the bond of sisterhood. Some mixed messages about powerful women and sexuality. Other themes include the idea that hate and prejudice comes from fear of the unknown and unfamiliarity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sally and Gillian are independent women who will do anything for family. Gillian, a free spirit, drinks and smokes cigarettes. She also uses magic to get a boy to love her. This ploy gets her into trouble, forcing her to learn a tough lesson in the end. Sally is a loyal and loving sibling who will go to great lengths to help and protect her sister. Both women show great strength and refuse to be taken advantage of. 

Violence

Themes of loss, tension, and violence throughout. Jimmy hits, chokes, and attempts to "brand" Gillian as his possession. Sally smashes a frying pan over Jimmy's head as self defense, killing him. Semi-comical scenes of peril.

Sex

A few scenes of passionate kissing and groping. There is also sexy suggestive dancing, sexual innuendos, and references to women being promiscuous adulterers. 

Language

Gillian is called a "slut" and kids sing "witch, witch you're a bitch." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The girls share a night of drinking margaritas and taking tequila shots. Jimmy is an alcoholic who drinks all day. The more he drinks the more aggressive and violent he becomes. Some of the characters smoke, including Gillian. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this romantic fantasy includes some passionate kissing and groping, as well as sexual references. Themes of loss, tension, and violence are throughout (including a scary scene when a boyfriend tries to painfully brand his girlfriend and semi-comic scenes of death). Some parents might be concerned about the theme of witchcraft (benign or otherwise), which include scenes of bringing a man back to life and spiritual possession.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 1, 4, 5, and 13 year old Written bycira222 May 15, 2009

Great movie, a little concerned about the review.

A great movie, but not for small children, tweens or new teens. I would say this is for kids 15 and over. The only thing I am concerned about is the review abo... Continue reading
Parent of a 9 and 12 year old Written bytylablue January 17, 2016

Big mistake

I should have read the common sense review before I rented this for me and my 12 year to watch. Unfortunately, I just read the reviews on the rental site. Bi... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byxLIARx November 1, 2014

Iffy...

I think that the movie is over-all, good, but the part where the woman is being possessed got me a little freaked out. As did the part where the boyfriend comes... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bygwena May 15, 2015

Not good for some audiences!

Other than that, it's a great movie!

What's the story?

PRACTICAL MAGIC follows the story of two orphan girls from a family of witches. Raised by aunts who feed them brownies for breakfast and are visited by neighbors only when they are desperate for a spell, the girls grow up looking for a way to separate themselves from their past. Sally (Sandra Bullock) longs to be "normal," and Gillian (Nicole Kidman) longs to abandon herself to a passion that will leave her dizzy. Sally marries a man she adores and has two children before he is killed in an accident. Devastated, she blames the family curse that, according to legend, results in the early death of any man who loves an Owens woman. Gillian ends up with Jimmy Angelof, an abusive man. When Sally comes to rescue her, they accidentally kill Jimmy. Using their aunts' book of spells, they bring him back, only to kill him again when he attacks them. They bury him in the back yard, and think they are safe. But then a policeman comes looking for Jimmy, who is not as departed as they thought.

Is it any good?

This is an uneven adaptation of Alice Hoffman's lyrical novel. Bullock and Kidman are ideally cast as the sisters who are very different but very devoted. Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing are delightful as the wry but wise and loving aunts, bedecked in Victorian lace.

It is a pretty movie to watch, with some feel-good scenes and strong themes of sisterhood. But the movie is so uneven in tone and theme -- with a mix of comedy, romance, and fantasy that doesn't quite gel -- that the experience is ultimately more frustrating than fun.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the women in this movie are portrayed. Do they challenge or reinforce any gender stereotypes? How do the men fare?

  • If you've read the book, how does the movie compare? What are some good book-to-movie adaptations?

Movie details

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