Review: Wicked (1998)





Michael Steinberg


Eric Weiss


1h 28m


Louise Myrback, Julia Stiles, Chelsea Field, William R. Moses, Vanessa Zima, Patrick Muldoon, Casey Rion, Linda Hart, Patrick McTavish, Connie Blankenship, Venessa Verdugo, Michael Parks, Kyle Sabihy, Sterling Macer

MPAA Rating


Buy/Rent Movie


In the early 2000s, I was writing reviews for an outfit called Apollo Guide Reviews. That website has since been closed down.

Attempting to reconstruct those reviews has been an exercise in frustration. Having sent them to Apollo Guide via email on a server I no longer have access to (and which probably doesn’t have records going back that far), my only option was to dig through The Wayback Machine to see if I could find them there. Unfortunately, while I found a number of reviews, a handful of them have disappeared into the ether. At this point, almost two decades later, it is rather unlikely that I will find them again.

Luckily, I was able to locate my original review of this particular film. Please note that I was not doing my own editing at the time, Apollo Guide was. As such, there may be more than your standard number of grammatical and spelling errors in this review. In an attempt to preserve what my style had been like back then, I am not re-editing these reviews, which are presented as-is.

In Wicked, a suburban housewife is the victim of a brutal murder and the police aren’t sure who did it. These are the makings of an interesting film about a family whose secrets are as deep as their relationships.

Ellie Christianson (Julia Stiles) threatens daily to run away from home, but always returns hours later. She can’t seem to pull herself away from her overbearing mother (Chelsea Field), because she loves her father (Billy Moses) too much. She doesn’t even want to leave her little sister (Vanessa Zima). But she’s a blossoming teenager and her mother just doesn’t seem to understand her.

One day, after the girls have headed off to school, Mrs. Christianson is attacked and killed. Detective Boland (Michael Parks) is trying to solve the case and immediately jumps to conclusions over who might have committed this gruesome crime. When the family finally settles down after the traumatic death, Ellie begins to take on an uncanny mother-like role and she even seems to be trying to seduce her father.

From there, the film tries to add more fuel to an already disturbingly hot fire, as the father begins dating another woman, much to Ellie’s chagrin. In rebellion, she plans to leave, but as she’s done so many times in the past, she returns home without having gone even so far as saying a word of goodbye.

Much like the little girl with a curl in Mother Goose’s poem, when Ellie is good, she’s very, very good, but when she’s bad, she’s horrid. Stiles embodies the coming-of-age teenager while simultaneously capturing the comely seductress. Moses and Field are rather two-dimensional, but Zima does quite well considering her inexperience and young age and. Parks is annoying and, while Muldoon brings a sexy abandon to his performance, he never brings the character to full realization.

Wicked’s plot is rather unusual and provides for an interesting set of scenes leading to an otherwise predictable conclusion, but what really makes this film work is that the filmmakers appear to know that it’s not going to be the best in the world and they don’t seem to mind a whole lot.

Director Michael Sternberg is not at fault for the film’s predictability, as the basic premise and the script make that pretty much inevitable; however Sternberg does show decent style and his camera knows when to stay still and when to move. It may not be the most glossy of films, but at least it tries to meet its audience’s expectations.

Wicked does have its charms, but it also has significant weaknesses. It’s not the kind of film you find succeeding at the box-office, but with the right audience, it could at least be a sleeper hit on video.

Review Written

September 23, 2001

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