Rough Magic

In an era when the only fantasies grown-up critics are supposed to validate are preschool ones, here?s a charming and decidedly offbeat adult fantasy-comedy (1995) from the stylish English director Clare Peploe (High Season). In the early 50s, around the time of Nixon?s Checkers speech, a magician?s apprentice (Bridget Fonda) who?s engaged to a corrupt and wealthy politician (D.W. Moffett) runs off to Mexico in search of a sorceress after witnessing an apparent murder. Eventually she links up with a couple of guys (Russell Crowe and Jim Broadbent) who have separate reasons for being interested in Fonda?s magic. Adapted by William Brookfield, former film critic Robert Mundy, and Peploe from James Hadley Chase?s novel Miss Shumway Waves a Wand, this visual treat recalls the whimsical postwar fantasies of Lewis Padgett (the pen name of writing team Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore). The period flavor is witty and concise, the magic—which ultimately includes a talking dog and a man turning into a sausage—fetching and full of twists.

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