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The Witches of Eastwick -- from sublime to the pits

By
CATHY BURKE, United Press International

The battle of the sexes gets devilishly good treatment in 'The Witches of Eastwick.'

The movie, directed by George Miller ('Mad Max') and starring Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer as the powerful, albeit innocent, witches and Jack Nicholson as the rascal demon skirts the sublime and sometimes hits the pits -- cherry pits to be exact.

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But in the end, this quirky tale of power, love and loneliness can't help but entertain with its lush photography (by Vimos Zsigmond) and heavenly cast.

From the beginning, the audience knows the three beautiful and husband-less friends are a bit on the strange side. For one thing, they seem to be far too beautiful and talented to stay in a staid and boring Connecticut suburb.

For another, it's never quite clear just how they seem to be able to conjure up such dramatic results -- storms, earthquakes, demons -- just by thinking the same thought.

And for a third, these women seem to be able to play a pretty odd game of tennis and float on air. Didn't they ever notice before that not everyone in Eastwick, Conn., can do these things?

Never mind. There is deviltry at work here, and one boring, rainy evening Alex the artist (Cher), Jane the musician (Sarandon) and Sukie the reporter (Pfeiffer) manage to conjure up a man of their collective dreams.

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Darryl Van Horne (Nicholson) comes riding into town in a black Mercedes, the answer to all their dreams.

Unfortunately, when the three realize their dreamboat was not only born to raise hell but lives there too, they try to drive him away, and his wrath is equally unpleasant.

But then again, that's the battle of the sexes in a nutshell: woman dreams of man, man tries to fill the bill, woman becomes disappointed, man becomes confused, and all hell breaks loose.

There are some particularly jarring scenes of cherry pit-vomiting as spewed by the wife of the local newspaperman and the devil himself, but beyond that, the hocus pocus is visually delightful and not so much scary as awesome.

Sarandon, Cher and Pfeiffer blend wonderfully well as the best friends, but seem at times such placid and tame women that we wonder if they ever get a mean thought. Their methods of ridding themselves of Mr. Right are anything but kind, yet they lack the kind of characterization that might make you believe that men aren't the only devils.

No such problem with Nicholson's characterization: this guy is a demon to be reckoned with.

As he assaults the quiet village church near the end of the film, the devil -- coated with cherry pits and down feathers and looking particularly insane -- screams out at the top of his lungs to a stunned congregation: 'So what do you think? Women -- a mistake? Or did He do it to us on purpose?'

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It's an age-old question, and this time around, it just might make you laugh.

This film is rated R.

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