Review for Roald Dahl's The Witches
In 1960s Alabama a little boy called Charlie goes to live with his grandmother after the death of his parents. His grandmother reveals to him a big secret:
Witches are real.
After an encounter with a witch, they go to stay in a hotel where a group of women arrive along with a very scary looking leader. These turn out to all be witches who have one thing in mind: Wipe all children off the face of the earth. All children will be turned into mice after a magical chocolate is eaten. It is up to Charlie and his new friend Bruno to alert his Grandmother and take these witches out for good.
Roald Dahl’s The Witches is generally regarded as one of his best books. This is coming from a man who wrote a lot of books that could easily take the honour of best. This book always felt more akin to a horror and when I saw the original 1990 Nicholas Roeg version of this film I was surprised by how terrifying it was. This version certainly has its moments, but not as many and I would say that maybe it was the wonderful Jim Henson practical effects which really helped.
When I saw that Robert Zemeckis was directing I inwardly shuddered, believing he would once again CGI-people the film like he had done with Polar Express and A Christmas Carol. Thankfully, he decided to use real people with the CG just for the effects and the mice which is all fine. This felt like a return to form for Zemeckis and his work throughout the film is fantastic.
Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch is fantastic, though it is such a shame that she has to follow such a wonderful by Angelica Houston. She is wonderful and her interactions with everyone is just dripping with evil creepiness which is just perfect.
The ensemble cast are great with Octavia Spencer perfect as
Grandmother and Stanley Tucci eating the scenery as the Hotel Manager. The children are fine and not as annoying as they were in the original, but it is odd that they are much more entertaining as mice than they are as actual humans. As for the effects in regards to the mice, it is fine and not too over the top which is exactly what I wanted it to be.
I found the film to be the perfect line between fun and scary and this is something that very few films can get right. The whole family loved the film and even the cynical ones with their heads in their phones paid attention to the wonderful world that Roald Dahl has created.
The only extra is a number of Deleted Scenes which are fine, but nothing special. It is a shame that nothing else was given as I would have happily sat through a Commentary or watched some Behind the Scenes featurettes on the making of the film.
Roald Dahls’ The Witches is a fabulous family film and a true PG film if ever there was one. I had almost forgotten that this rating existed and the film definitely felt like that fine line between a U and a 12 which was just perfect in the 1980s. If you are a fan of Roald Dahl (let’s face it, who isn’t?) or love the original version, you may want to give this take a look. It is one of the best adaptations of Dahl’s work I have ever seen and one that you don’t need a magical bar of chocolate to convince you of this.