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Witch Way Love

Awatered-down hybrid of "Highlander" and "Sleeping Beauty," "Witch Way Love" strives to be a magical tale awash in charm and suspense but only intermittently exploits its basic elements with the sense of delight and wonder needed. High-profile cast will help with offshore sales, and kids with attention spans may enjoy the proceedings, but pic --- at least in French-lingo prints on view in France --- is essentially harmless without being all that much fun. It's conceivable that the fantasy-laced adventure --- written and directed by L.A.-based French helmer Rene Manzor --- has slightly more energy in its English-language version being sold internationally. Taking advantage of bilingual Gallic principals Vanessa Paradis, Jean Reno and Jeanne Moreau, Manzor (a veteran of small-screen series "The Hitch-Hiker" and "Young Indiana Jones," as well as four previous features) shot two versions side by side

With:
Morgane ..... Vanessa Paradis Michael ..... Gil Bellows Molok ..... Jean Reno Eglantine ..... Jeanne Moreau Joel ..... Dabney Coleman

The global population of witches is down to six. In the Good corner are Morgane (versatile songbird Paradis, in her third bigscreen outing), her two elderly aunts, her grandmother Eglantine (Moreau) and their helper, Merlin, an older dwarf. On the side of Evil, imposing Molok (Reno) stands alone. Morgane, the only extant witch with functioning reproductive powers, is the mother of baby Arthur.

At pic’s outset only 96 hours remain until 6 a.m. on June 14, when an unprecedented planetary alignment will usher in Arthur’s first birthday, at which time he must be assigned a godfather. If the candidate is Good, so’s the kid. And if the candidate is Evil, the baby goes rotten.

Rather than surrender Arthur to Molok, who’s desperate for an heir, Morgane plans to exercise another option. She can select an ordinary mortal, provided he was born on June 14 at 6 a.m. Arthur will lose his magical powers and revert to normal kiddie-dom, and the godfather will be reduced to the intelligence of a turnip during the ceremony, which makes it tricky to tell the prospective godparent what’s in store.

Of the three men whose birth dates coincide with Arthur’s, two meet unpleasant deaths thanks to Molok. The final potential godfather is 30-year-old Michael (Gil Bellows), a New York-based American inventor and loner known in business circles as “the next Bill Gates.” Although Michael hates to fly, his associate Joel (Dabney Coleman) puts him on the Concorde to Paris. Morgane spirits Michael away upon arrival, and en route to her grandmother’s chateau stops for a night of magic potions and torrid sex in a forest clearing. Her plan is derailed when she falls for Michael and can’t face the idea of reducing him to mental veggie status.

Pic is dotted with modest displays of magic, but little that rates both “ooh” and “ahh.” Reno has genuine presence, which infuses his scenes with much-needed menace; Moreau, too, comes off well. But entire cast is hampered by post-synching that’s merely approximate far too much of the time.

Location lensing in Venice and the pastel-toned French countryside is fine. The believable physical resemblance and obvious complicity between Paradis and Moreau is also a plus. The extensive score is mostly pedestrian but not intrusive.

Portions of the finish have a tad more oomph than what went before, but pic remains a weak tale of strong magic.

Witch Way Love

French

Production: A UFD release (in France) of a Films Christian Fechner/TF1 Films production, with participation of Canal Plus. (International sales: TF1 Intl., Boulogne-sur-Seine.) Produced by Christian Fechner. Executive producers, Herve Truffaut, Didier Pain. Directed, written by Rene Manzor.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Pal Gyulay; editor, Christine Kampsambelis Pansu; music, Jean-Felix Lalanne; production design, Thierry Flamand; costume design, Annie Perier-Foulon; sound (Dolby), Patrick Rousseau, Laurent Quaglio, Jean-Paul Loublier; special effects, Gilbert Pieri; assistant director, Cathy Joube; casting, Gerard Moulevrier. Reviewed at UGC Cine Cite Theater, Paris, March 25, 1997. Running time: 105 MIN

With: Morgane ..... Vanessa Paradis Michael ..... Gil Bellows Molok ..... Jean Reno Eglantine ..... Jeanne Moreau Joel ..... Dabney ColemanFantin Lalanne, Louise Vincent, Malcolm Dixon, Eleonore Hirt, Katherine Boorman

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