Adventure Comedy

Review: ‘The Witches’ is a Dark, Twisted and Entertaining Romp

December 23, 2020Ben MK

From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to James and the Giant Peach, the name Roald Dahl is arguably synonymous with some of cinema's most beloved kid-friendly movies. With director Robert Zemeckis' adaptation of Dahl's 1983 novel The Witches, however, comes perhaps one of the most dark and twisted family films in recent memory.

Set in 1967, this reimagining of the 1990 movie of the same name follows an eight-year-old boy named Charlie (Jahzir Bruno) who, after the untimely death of both his parents in a car accident, goes to live with his kindhearted yet stern grandmother (Octavia Spencer) at her house in Demopolis, Alabama. But just as Charlie starts to get acclimated to his new surroundings and begins to move past mourning his mom and dad, his life takes another — albeit more bizarre — turn, when a trip to the local shop sees him coming face to face with a mysterious woman.

A strong believer in the supernatural having already been touched by it once in her lifetime, Charlie's grandma is quick to realize that this is no ordinary stranger danger — but that he has, in fact, encountered a witch. So she packs up their belongings and whisks Charlie off to the Grand Orleans Imperial Island Hotel, the one place where she thinks that she and her grandson will be safe. Little does she realize, though, that the hotel also happens to be the chosen location for a witches convention. And when Charlie discovers that the Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway, in peak vamp mode) is plotting to turn all the world's children into mice, it falls on him and newfound friends Bruno (Codie-Lei Eastick) and Daisy (Kristin Chenoweth) to stop them.

What follows is something of a game of cat and mouse (pun intended) as Charlie, Bruno and Daisy — with some help from Charlie's grandma — set out to upend the Grand High Witch's scheme by turning the tables on the witches and giving them a taste of their own medicine. Yet, despite the best intentions of Zemeckis and fellow screenwriters Kenya Barris and Guillermo del Toro, the film can't help but feel a bit mean-spirited, especially considering the target audience and the more positive messaging of other Dahl adaptations like The BFG and Matilda.

Nonetheless, it all adds up to an entertaining romp that viewers looking to satisfy their cinematic cravings in this time of stay-at-home pandemic moviegoing will appreciate. And while that may not necessarily elevate The Witches to the level of must-see status, it at least makes for a devilishly tasty year-end treat.

The Witches releases December 25th, 2020 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for scary images/moments, language and thematic elements. Its runtime is 1 hr. 46 min.

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