The Witches on Blu-ray – The DVDfever Review – Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer

The Witches
The Witches comes to Blu-ray and DVD following its streaming debut on HBO Max, not appearing in cinemas because this year has gone a bit ‘2020’. It’s a new take on the Roald Dahl story, starring Anne Hathaway (Interstellar), and comes from director Robert Zemeckis (Allied, The Walk 3D, Back To The Future).

We learn, early on, how witches are real and they live amongst us, and also want to squish children out of existence… Well, they can be annoying.

Okay, perhaps, not quite out of existence, but they want to turn them into tiny mice.

We go back to December 1968, when narrator Charlie (voiced, in his elder self, by Chris Rock) was an 8-year-old boy, and his parents died in a car accident, leading him to stay with his Grandma (Octavia Spencer) who tries to buoy him up and take care of him. However, it’s not long before he chances across the first of three witches whilst in the supermarket. But never has it been more prescient that you really shouldn’t accept candy from a stranger.

All the witches get their orders from the Grand High Witch, in which Anne Hathaway puts on a Russian accent that’s as convincing as Arthur Bostrom was as French cop Officer Crabtree in ‘Allo ‘Allo. Plus, when she smiles, it’s like the latter part of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun video! (below)

As time goes on, Grandma and young Charlie (Jahzir Kadeem Bruno) go to stay in a hotel run by Mr RJ Stringer III (Stanley Tucci), while the former feels a big test is coming… and it’s at that moment when the witches arrives. However, they can be easily spotted, since Grandma tells him how witches are demons who have claws instead of hands, they have no toes and wear wigs because they’re bald. Now, now, we’re in 2020 so you shouldn’t be bald-shaming anyone… Okay, so they turn children into mice. Yep, maybe berate them for that.

Addition: Some time later, The Last Leg‘s Alex Brooker tried to desperately get some headlines by saying the claws were offensive to some people were disabilities. (sigh) It’s a fantasy movie, they’re not trying to go out of their way to offend. Maybe one day, someone will accidentally confuse Alex Brooker for a comedian? Probably not.

Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun

In what follows, there’s a cute CGI black cat. Well, it kinda snarls at people it doesn’t like, but an early scene showing it climb down a building and walk into Anne’s hotel room is quite cute. Any cats are when they can’t be in your house, tearing up the furniture and weeing all over it.

There’s also some great CGI used throughout, such as when Anne turns into everything we learn about a witch, then flies around the room, smashing things up, and sniffing out a child, with her nostrils geting huge and twitching. In fact, she’s a bit like David Warner’s Evil in Time Bandits. At one point, another of the many witches asks a question, she obliterates them in an instant, and conceeds, “…That was a good question”.

Plus, when it comes to turning individuals into mice, it does make you wish you could get rid of certain real life people like that.

I never saw the 1990 movie, but this new version is quite a charming little tale at first, albeit slow for the first 35 mins, but then keeps up the pace after that once the story moves to the hotel. As an adult, I enjoyed it from that point on, while kids will love it.

Of course, if a group of grown humans can’t defeat a bevvy of witches, how can three mice do it? Watch and learn…

Coincidentally, before I added these words, the word count of this review was 666, which is Anne’s hotel room number in the movie.

And a thought about how certain things should’ve turned out, in my view:

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

The Witches (1990) Ultimate Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray
(click on image for the link)

The film looks superb, as you’d expect from a modern movie, bringing all the stunning colour of the movie to life, and is backed up by a suitably exuberant soundtrack when required.

The extras are as follows:

  • The Making of The Witches (6:26): Chat from the cast and crew, mixed in with clips from the film. It covers how some of the special effects are done (mostly blue screen), plus how the mice are CGI. It’s not massively in-depth, but it does the job, which sets the scene for the other two extras.

  • Roald Dahl: The Story Behind The Witches (5:07): As Anne Hathaway states, there are some writers who talk down to children, Dahl didn’t at all.

  • The Witches: Magic Mouse-Maker Potion (0:55): Blink and you’ll miss it!

  • Gag Reel (1:28): In this brief section, it’s mostly fluffs while doing the piece-to-camera interviews, rather than on-set filming.

  • Deleted Scenes (6:03): 4 scenes, but nothing that really needs to go back into the film.

  • Audio description: Does exactly what it says on the tin.

    The menu features clips from the film set to a piece of the incidental music, subtitles are in English only, and there’s a ridiculously few NINE chapters! Also, there are a few trailers before the film, as if we’re still in the age of rental video.

    The Witches is out now on Blu-ray, Amazon Video and DVD.

    Also available is The Witches (1990) Ultimate Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray.

    Also, you can buy the Roald Dahl novel in paperback, Kindle and Hardback.

    The Witches – The Blu-ray package

    The Witches – Official Trailer

    Running time: 104 minutes
    Year: 2020
    Distributor: Warner Bros 5000276776
    Released: December 14th 2020
    Chapters: 14
    Picture: 1080p High Definition
    Sound: DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio
    Languages: English, French, Italian
    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Italian
    Widescreen: 2.39:1 (DXL RAW (8K))
    Disc Format: BD50


    Director: Robert Zemeckis
    Producers: Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis
    Screenplay: Robert Zemeckis, Kenya Barris, Guillermo del Toro
    Novel: Roald Dahl
    Music: Alan Silvestri

    Grand High Witch: Anne Hathaway
    Grandma: Octavia Spencer
    Mr RJ Stringer III: Stanley Tucci
    Charlie Hansen: Jahzir Kadeem Bruno
    Charlie Hansen (as an adult narrator): Chris Rock
    Bruno Jenkins: Codie-Lei Eastick
    Daisy: Kristin Chenoweth
    Mr Jenkins: Charles Edwards
    Mrs Jenkins: Morgana Robinson
    Reginald: Brian Bovell
    Jesup: Dempsey Bovell
    Chief Doorman: Cyril Nri