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.
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.
The Witches is streams on HBO Max from today with some UK streaming services from Monday October 26th, but is not yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD. However, you can buy the Roald Dahl novel in paperback, Kindle and Hardback.
Running time: 104 minutes
Release date: October 22nd 2020
Studio: HBO Max
Format: 2.39:1 (DXL RAW (8K))
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
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.