The Witches Movie Review : A Simple Story with crafty ingredients firmly in Place

The Witches Movie Review : A Simple Story with crafty ingredients firmly in Place


The story is based on Roald Dahl’s 1983 novel by the same name, ‘The Witches’. It is about an orphaned boy who has an encounter with the Grand High Witch that turns into a dramatic tale of courageous rescue and revenge.


IMDB Rating – 5.4/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating – 49%

Jahzir Kadeem Bruno is a young Hero Boy. After the death of his parents in a horrific car accident, he is taken in by his grandmother (Octavia Spencer), who lives in a dusty old town of Alabama. She says, ‘I am sad for you, but I am not sorry for you,’. She then pushes him to start living his life again. The old lady has an infectious energy and love that pulls the Hero Boy out of his grief. He even gets a pet mouse and names it Daisy.

Anne Hathaway, Warner Bros. apologize after 'The Witches' faces criticism  from disability advocates

One day Hero Boy encounters a strange lady, who offers him a candy but he spots a snake crawling out of her clothes. This freaks him out and he runs to his grandma. Grandma later explains that the lady was indeed a witch. She even narrates her own witch encounter during her childhood. The incident had left her deeply shaken because the witch had turned her best friend into a chicken. 

The grandmother now fears the worst for her grandson and whisks him away to the grandest hotel in town. She believes the witches only prey on the most vulnerable and poor kids. But to their great horror, a large delegation of the witches led by the Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway) comes down to the same hotel for a convention. Disguised as affluent glamourous ladies, these witches are on a mission to wipe out every child from the face of the earth, by turning them into mice.

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The story is narrated like a tale from folklore in Chris Rock’s reassuring voice. ‘The Witches’ promptly gets into the action mode. Co-writer and director Robert Zemeckis keeps his retelling honest to the source material. The story becomes more exciting with thrilling adventures and slick animation.

And if you haven’t read the book or watched the 1990 version, you might even find the plot quite unpredictable and full of spooky surprises. Especially the elaborate scene where the Grand High Witch addresses her subordinates and encounters the kids for the first time in the grand hall. The period of 1968 is deftly portrayed with attention to detail and much of the action is restricted within the Grand Hotel.

The Witches' Backlash: Warner Bros Apologizes After Controversy - Variety

But what really lifts the viewer experience is Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway’s uninhibited act as the Grand High Witch. There are special effects and clever prosthetics that transform Hathaway into a bewitching badass with wide grins, flaring nostrils, deformed feet and clawed hands. The actress puts up quite an animated yet spirited performance that’s spookily exciting and delectably dark. The story is over-the-top with a thick loud Eastern European accent, but she gets it right.

Matching her with an equally strong yet restrained act is another Oscar winner Octavia Spencer. The talented actress delivers some of the most deeply meaningful dialogues that help build her character. Jahr Kadeem Bruno is convincing as the daring kid, who takes on an entire coven of witches. Kristin Chenoweth is the assertive voice of Daisy, the pet mouse.

In the end, ‘The Witches’ is a simple story made grandly entertaining with all its crafty ingredients firmly in place. Enough to cast its magic spell on children of all ages.

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