The Witches-1990

The Witches-1990

Director-Nicolas Roeg

Starring-Angelica Huston

Scott’s Review #483


Reviewed September 20, 2016

Grade: B-

The Witches is a G-rated family film with a slightly dark tone that is done in a soft manner as the film is really targeted for children. However, it is a film that adults may love too. I found the film to be entertaining, with impressive special effects, and a dazzling comedic performance by Angelica Huston, but ultimately The Witches has a silly quality, though admittedly not trite, that does not completely make it a success in my book.

The film is based on a Roald Dahl children’s book – with predictably a child as the central character- similar to other Dahl novels that became films like James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I cannot help but wonder if my mediocre rating of The Witches has to do with the fact that I have not read the novel, as I have the other aforementioned novels in his collection.

Our hero in the story is Luke- a  kindly, innocent young boy living in Norway with his parents and grandmother- Helga. When his folks are tragically killed, his grandmother takes him to London to begin a new life for themselves. When Helga falls ill, they stay at a seaside resort where they stumble upon a convention of witches disguised as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Luke’s and his plump friend Bruno become victims of the witches plot to turn children into mice. The witch group is led by the Grand High Witch (Huston), who the other witches fawn over with grandiose praise.

Huston is fantastic as she overacts the part she plays- this is not a bad thing, but makes the role quite fun and energetic. When she transforms from a glamorous woman to a shriveled monster, the transformation is interesting to watch and an impressive part of the film. Furthermore, the way that Luke and Bruno interact when they are mice is also cute and a positive to the film.

I enjoyed the aspect that, if watched closely, can be seen involving the reveal that numerous witches are really men with female wigs on. This successfully gives the witches a grotesque, obviously mannish quality and emits a chuckle of pleasure at the same time.

Still, there is something slightly childish or juvenile about the offering- while the film appears dark on the surface. The subject is rather played for laughs instead of going full steam ahead as a dark film. Undoubtedly this is due to the target audience that the film is going for. For instance, hotel manager and his affair with a hotel maid seems slightly unnecessary.

The Witches is a decent offering due respect for the creative aspects that it elicits- I just felt the story might have been done a bit more serious. Additionally, the ending feels  slightly forced and abrupt- a Hollywood intended ending perhaps?

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