I’m reviewing the original, 1990 version of The Witches, of course, to prepare myself to watch and review the remake tomorrow. I know I’m a tad bit late on this film, but again, I was busy. Anyways, this is obviously not my first time watching this film, but it is my first time reviewing it. Sadly, I can’t really say that I grew up watching this one. I’ve seen it probably once when I was really young, but my mom, being the Christian lady she was, was against anything surrounding witches, even if it was rated PG and meant to be watched by families with children. I had a sheltered childhood, what can I say? That being said, I do remember reading this book, and of course, certain things about watching this movie again after so many years stood out to me as instantly nostalgic and unforgettable, and it’s a lulu of witches in general…let’s get crackin.
This review is brought to you by the word of the day: Lulu.
An outstanding example of a particular type of person or thing.
The Witches focuses on a young boy and his grandmother has they discuss what witches are like in real life, a subject that fascinates the boy until he runs into a swarm of witches in his hotel, all of which are plotting to wipe out every child in the country by transforming them into mice. The question comes down to…what can the boy possibly do about this witch problem when he himself eventually gets turned into a mouse?
This is such a classic film when you watch it, and I think a huge reason for that is because it’s all based on a story that was written by Roald Dahl, who often had a way about his storytelling that made either his readers or film audiences feel an incredible amount of magic and wonder while they got sucked into the story. That’s been true for, I feel like, every one of his stories. Willy Wonka, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, and so many more. He was just so good at what he did, and that magic isn’t lost in The Witches.
There’s got to be a million movies that focus on witches, but I feel like this is actually one of the best and most original solely based on how the witches are described. The whole bald thing with itchy scalps, the flat-edged toes, the purple hue to the eyes, the way they can smell children. It’s all based on what the book said, obviously, but even so, those descriptors are so, so unique. It’s one of the main things I’ve always respected about this story. As for how the movie itself is made? Well, you can definitely praise a lot of the practical effects work that was put into the movie. That is true especially for the makeup and costumes on the witches and animatronic work on the mice, which the editor was able to weave together shots of real mice with animatronic mice really nicely. I don’t always love animatronics, but when you compare that to bad CGI, the animatronic work will always come out on top because at the end of the day, you can still make the argument that those animals were physically there in this movie, whether or not they were real. You can’t make the same argument about CGI – and that’s one of my biggest worries about the remake.
But my main issue with this movie is that it’s too much of an adaptation. Meaning, you feel the book when you watch it more so than you feel a movie. It just doesn’t flow together as well as any other movie would. This happens, then this happens, and then this happens, but there’s not many transitioning scenes that get these characters from Point A to Point B to Point C, nor is there any exposition scenes explaining why a majority of these things are happening. For instance, the boy and his grandmother wind up in this hotel, but there really isn’t much explanation at all as to how or why they wound up at this particular hotel where the witches just so happen to be having a get together. There’s no explanation as to why the witches hate children or want them all dead. It’s pretty shallow in that respect. They’re just evil for evil sake, and I understand and respect that it’s a kids movie and they don’t always need those types of answers, but nowadays, I actually come to expect something, even if it is small. So, I’m crossing my fingers for some more explanations in the remake. We’ll see, though.
In general, I can’t say that I love witch movies, but because this film specifically feels classic and has that Roald Dahl spirit, I’ve got to say it’s easily one of my favorite witch movies in general. It’s also on Netflix, so you can definitely check it out if you haven’t seen it yet. But let’s go ahead and break down my final score for a second. From a technical, unbiased perspective, I have to say that I definitely respect the practical effects work done in this film. It’s all really good, even if the animatronic stuff is noticeably fake. It’s nostalgic, which saves a lot of what could be perceived as bad moments. That score is 80%. Likewise, my biased score agrees with that and is 80% because it brought my back to my own childhood, and I was reminded of that magic and wonder that I associate with Roald Dahl. Meaning when you average these two scores together, we obviously come to the final rating of 80%, 80 out of 100 possible stars, or a B- letter grade.
I liked it. I haven’t heard the best things about the remake, but that’s almost always the case. People hate remakes because they have too many expectations based on the original and based on the book that it melts their brain so much that they can’t imagine anybody else approaching the same story. I am usually really excited to see remakes because I can sit here and enjoy both for different reasons. There’s every chance in the world that I can sit here and enjoy the book for one reason, enjoy the 1990 film for another reason, and enjoy the 2020 remake for a third reason. I almost never crap on one because it’s not like the other. If I wanted it to be exactly like the other…I’d just watch the other. I actually want them to make changes. As long as the movie works within its own set of rules, I’m game. But we’ll find out soon if I’ll take to the remake.
Guys, let me know your thoughts on the original Witches film in the comments section down below. Is this film every bit as classic to you as I feel like it is to me? Until my review of the remake…