The Witches (2020)

Rating: 8 out of 10.

The Witches remake was released relatively recently to the streaming service, HBO Max. Yesterday, I reviewed the original film in anticipation and preparation to see this one, even though a few people here and there weren’t exactly loving it. Thankfully, I don’t care about the negative things people have to say about remakes because I don’t mind them. Nine times out of ten, I enjoy remakes because I can separate my experience and enjoy both versions for different reasons. You might be surprised, but even so, I’m not going to repine about this remake. Let’s get crackin!

This review is brought to you by the word of the day: Repine.
To complain.

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?

So, this is the part of the review where I would normally say, in general, what the movie did well. Because it’s a remake, however, I’m going to focus primarily on what it did better than the original, and after that, I’ll talk about where the original came out on top. In a world filled with negative reviews, a lot of people are going to focus pretty hard on certain areas and call the whole thing horrible, when in fact it does have some really great things going on. First of all, the pacing is 1,000 times better than the original. The original movie felt too much like a companion piece to the book. You would have one scene and you’d remember reading that, then there was another scene, and likewise, you remember reading that, too…but it had a lot of issues with transitioning; getting from Point A to Point B. Why was the grandma telling her grandchild about witches in the first place? Why did they go to the hotel? These things weren’t really explained in the original film…but they were in this movie, and because of that small addition, this movie felt more like a balanced movie that stands on its own two legs and doesn’t require your knowledge in the books firsthand. If you have it, great. If you don’t, no problem. In this film, the grandma is telling her grandchild about witches because he encountered one, so she needed to explain the warning signs, and they also head to the hotel because the grandchild ran into the witch, and so grandma knows there’s a threat nearby and she wants to protect her child. Going to the hotel in the original movie wasn’t an act of protection. Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure what it was, but it wasn’t protection. It had something to do with Grandma’s diabetes. You got me past that.

Another great aspect in this film is the visuals, and that’s something I think a lot of critics would disagree with me on the most here, because they will be focusing a lot on CGI that isn’t always the best. In the movie’s defense, I’ll just say the original movie had animatronic work that technically wasn’t always the best, either, so that cancels each other out. The visuals that actually impressed me the most was the thought put into lighting and color palettes, especially in what Octavia Spencer is often wearing. She often wears a dress with a floral design. The flower petals are often different colors than the dress itself, and as a whole, it blends really well with certain scenes. In the beginning, the grandma presents her grandchild with yellow corn bread, while he drinks yellow orange juice, in a room filled with yellow-painted walls, and she of course is wearing a yellow dress. And throughout the film, depending on which room of which building she is in, she changes that dress, and it ends up blending into the background each time. Like at the hotel when she’s wearing a green and yellow dress with green gloves. You see in the background, yellow flowers that look like the flowers on her dress, and on the other wall, you see tall green plants that match the green that she wears. There’s another shot in a store where the grandmother is wearing a multi-colored purse, and in the store there’s a million different things, all with different colors, one of them being a multi-colored gumball machine right where she was standing with her multi-colored purse. This is a constant theme throughout the movie, and it tells me that somebody was really smart when they were planning out each of these scenes. I felt the same recently when I watch Netflix’s The Babysitter, which did something similar. I knew before I even saw the CGI that I was giving visuals full points…and what about the CGI? Again, it’s not as good as it could have been, but it IS a kids movie, which is why it doesn’t bother me. Same with the original and its animatronic work. I actually think the CGI work done on Anne Hathaway’s face as a witch, and how her jaw opens up is nightmare inducing for kids and I am downright shocked that this movie is rated PG. Shocked. Kids these days would actually be scared of certain imagery in this movie.

As for where the original comes out on top? I would mostly say, as a general rule, it’s more magical than this movie. It’s more nostalgic, there’s more of a sense of wonder, you can tell it’s a Roald Dahl story much more than you can here. I also think the editing was much better in the original film when it came down to transforming the children into mice. You got to see the different steps of the transformation process in that. It’ll cut away, and they’ll have an elongated nose. It’ll cut away and they’ll have a little bit more hair. It’ll cut away and they’ll now have big teeth, and then they’d be a rat scurrying off. It wasn’t instantaneous, like it was in this movie. In this movie, it’s like…a snap of a finger. They fly up into the sky and transform into a mouse, and that’s that. It’s not as cool, honestly. Other editing things comes down to editing sequences following around animatronic mice and interweaving that with shots of real mice. There was just a little bit more focus on that in the original film, and I really respected that.

Let’s go ahead and break down my final score for a minute. If you recall, my scores for the original film were 80% for the unbiased AND biased scores, making it a well-rounded movie all around, but how does this compare? First of all, the unbiased, technical score is much, much lower at 68% because even though I loved the color palletes of all of these scenes, I realize that there wasn’t as much hardcore work into setting other things up, and the first film had a lot of great practical effects. The biased score, on the other hand, is higher than the original at 88% because I really enjoyed this movie. I had a good time with it and personally liked its pacing much more than the original. Averaging out the two scores together, we come to the final rating of 78%, 78 out of 100 possible stars or a C+ letter grade, meaning I do think the original film is better…but only by 2%.

68%

Unbiased Score

88%

Biased Score

78%

TOTAL SCORE

In general, I think this movie follows that original story incredibly closely, and shouldn’t be immediately disregarded because it wasn’t exactly what you wanted out of the movie. That being said, I would like to hear your thoughts on this remake in the comments down below. Is it really as bad as some people have put it out to be, or does it deserve some merit? Let me know! And as always, until next time…

PEACE OUT

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