Roald Dahl’s The Witches

I have been a fan of Roahl Dahl for some time now. I especially have enjoyed his poetry such as The Pig, a charming and darkly comedic take on why a pig is alive. However, I will admit that I have either not been a huge fan of most of the movie adaptation of Dahl’s work or I have not seen them. Obviously, I love Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Fantastic Mr. Fox is extremely well done. Matilda is fun too. I have actually never seen James and the Giant Peach, did not love The BFG and actively disliked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. When I came across the movie Roald Dahl’s The Witches on HBO Max, I must admit to being intrigued.

I had never heard of this story and I also was unaware that there was another version of this film from 1990 starring Anjelica Huston and featuring Jim Henson puppetry. I will have to check that out.

So I entered this film without any knowledge of The Witches at all outside of the fact that it was a Roald Dahl story.

I was unimpressed.

In The Witches, a boy (Jahzir Bruno) is orphaned in a car crash and goes to live with his grandma (Octavia Spencer). Little did he know, witches were real and they were all around. His grandma had encountered a specific witch when she was a child and that witch turned Grandma’s friend into a chicken. So when the boy encounters a witch at the store, Grnadma took him away to a seaside resort. Unfortunately, there was a witches convention going on there with the Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway) unleashing her evil plan to change all the children of the world into mice.

There are some huge names connected with this project. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis. The score was composed by Alan Silvestri. The credits included names such as Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón. That is a lot of talent to be connected to this film especially considering how disappointing this was.

Octavia Spencer is always awesome and she does her job here really well. Anne Hathaway is so over-the-top in The Witches as the Grand High Witch, it seems as if she is having a blast. Stanley Tucci is in the film too (not sure why).

The cast was not the issue. Roald Dahl’s work is wonderfully dark and funny. Even Willy Wonka has undertones in the film of the darkness that exists. Here, much of the darkness has been removed in favor of family friendly moments. The only really dark moment was the ending with the fate of the Grand High Witch, which was satisfying. I would have enjoyed that tone more.

There were several plot points that seemed to be important, but were totally dropped. For example, Grandma spent the whole film coughing badly, implying that she was sick. I guess not as it does not come into the story at all. There was several references to garlic in a soup scene that made you believe that garlic may play into the resolution of the arc. Nope. I guess it is just a one off joke.

Another issue I had that, for a film from 2020, the CGI was below average. There were many places in the film where the CGI was noticeable and that is a sin for a current movie, in particular for a film where three of its main characters are talking mice.

This might be an effective film to plop the children down in front of during this holiday season, but for the adults in the room, be prepared to engage elsewhere.

2.5 stars

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