Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: A young boy and his grandmother have a run-in with a coven of witches and their leader.
Review: Nostalgia can be a tricky thing. There are so many movies I remember fondly, only to rewatch them as an adult and think to myself “that seemed so much cooler when I was a kid.” Because of this, I always try to be fair with remakes and not just dump them all in a pile of “nothing’s better than the original.” Now like a lot of people out there, I LOVED the 1990’s version of Roald Dahl’s classic novel. Some of my fondest memories are of darker movies aimed towards kids like The Gate and Monster Squad, just to name a few, and The Witches is right up there as arguably, the darkest of them all. I even rewatched it to ensure I had a clear and recent perspective on this classic tale. So does this 2020 remake do it justice?
Not really folks, not really.
I found myself dissecting this one like I was trying to share a ten-slice pizza with twenty friends. The reason for this was director Robert Zemeckis is clearly a fan of the original film. You can see it in how closely the story follows the 1990’s screenplay (I haven’t read the book, so I can only judge film vs film). From the the hotel and its colour schemes, to the design of the kids turned “mouses” (as young Bruno would say), the look of the witches (updated with a few new touches, some of which have caused controversy) and the almost exact dialogue and pacing. The appreciation for the iconic first film is all there. Well, at least, the desire is there. The final product on the other hand…
Let’s start with the purple and black elephant in the room: Anne Hathaway’s take on the lead role of the Grand High Witch originally played to hideous perfection by Angelica Houston. Listen I love Anne Hathaway, I think she’s a very talented actress. That said, she really needs to stop trying accents because she’s no bueno at them! It’s almost cringe-worthy how much she struggles with it, and it does pull you out of the story every time it falls apart. That said, credit where credit is due. I actually think she does better with the comedic elements than Houston did as she did make me laugh throughout.
She’s not the only character with problems though. Octavia Spencer lacks the grandmotherly touch of original actress Mia Zetterling. Rowan Atkinson was perfect as the sniveling-until-he’s not Mr Stringer (the hotel manager) whereas the talented Stanley Tucci is woefully under developed and underused here.
The tone here veers pretty far from the original as well. Now this might not be a problem for newer audiences who have never seen the cult classic 90’s version. Honestly, if you watch this from the perspective of a newcomer, it truly isn’t that bad. But the reality is a large part of this viewing audience is going to be the kids-turned-grownups who adore the original movie, and trust me when I say, this isn’t gonna sit well with them. The darker tone of the original is in large part, WHY it holds such fond memories for fans and while they do try to come across as “a scary kids movie” at no time does this take on The Witches ever feel like it will resonate with kids long after its gone.
So I’ll give this a B- for effort and a D for execution. It’s in no way a bad movie, and honestly if it was the first version of The Witches you ever saw, you might even call it delightful. Most people probably don’t even know, but the original film was a box office bomb. That said, the original DOES exist so if you’re gonna remake a movie people already adore, you better bring your A game.
Sommer’s Score: 5 out of 10
So what did you think of The Witches remake? For my review of The Craft: Legacy you can click here.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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