I didn’t grow up reading Roald Dahl, my first introduction to him and his work was through the film, Matilda, one of my favourite film of all time (one that I rewatch multiple times a year). It’s later in my teenage years after I learned English that I went and read his books, devouring them one by one. That’s how I stumbled upon The Witches for the first time, after finishing the book, I discovered that a film adaptation existed. That is when I ran to the closest Blockbuster to went to rent it. The truth is, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Me a girl who got scared at The Scorpion King (yes, I know, you can judge me, God knows Andres does), I was simply not ready. But the truth is, the original The Witches is still to this day one of my favourite book adaptation, a scary and suspenseful film that to this day stand out. The truth is, nothing could come close to the original adaptation and Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forest Gump) remake doesn’t even come an inch close to being a worthy adaptation of Dahl’s book.
As the credits rolled on the film, I sat there wondering what the hell I had just watched. How can a film that is produced by Robert Zemeckis, Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Shape of Water) and Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity, Roma) and boasting a script from Zemeckis, del Toro and Kenya Barris (Black-ish, Girls Trip) could be such a mess? The truth is, The Witches has no idea what it wants to be. At times, it seems to be too much for children but then one second later it becomes a film geared towards them and no adult should watch it. It tries so hard to live in both worlds that it ends up simply in limbo, incapable of being anything other than a mess that you should avoid really.
Octavia Spencer (The Help, Hidden Figures) and Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, The Princess Diaries) deserve praise because they are doing the most with this film. Both deserve better than this film, both deserve praise for actually delivering performances that make this film bearable. The reason why this film is even remotely entertaining was the performances. These are two Academy Award winners, we knew they could deliver but even them and all the fun they are having can’t save this. Jahzir Bruno stands out too and he delivers a great performance even after he becomes nothing more than a voice. Chris Rock was Chris Rock, I don’t have more to say than that honestly… And Kristin Chenoweth is always flawless in everything and I could listen to her speak forever. The acting isn’t the problem, the rest is…
The Witches is campy but not in a good way… I don’t mind campy, I even welcome it most times because at least that means it’s fun but this, this isn’t fun. It’s a muddle, a mess, a film that can’t find its footing and faceplants. It tries to blend scary and campy too much and instead is the opposite. Yes, the visual effects are impressive, but that doesn’t save it. Nothing can… The one thing that helps is how much fun Hathaway is having playing the Grand High Witch but never did she scared me like Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family) did in the original.
I wanted to enjoy The Witches and I kind of did? But also kind of hated it? Just like the film, I have no idea what to think. I don’t know what to make of it because the film doesn’t know what to make of itself either. I’m a mess just like this film I guess?
Roald Dahl hated the original feature adaptation of his book. The reason? The change to the ending differed from the ending in the book. Well, this adaptation does keep the original ending but I truly believe that Dahl is rolling in his grave right now at this adaptation. I am sure he would take the original feature with a different ending than this mess.