The Witches (1990)

The Witches Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

The Witches Movie Review

The Witches is a 1990 family fantasy film directed by Nicolas Roeg, produced by Jim Henson and starring Anjelica Huston. It is one of the best fantasy as well as family films of its era.

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Witches spend their time plotting to kill children,

stalking the wretched child like a hunter stalks a bird in the forest

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The Witches Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

The Witches is based on the eponymous Roald Dahl novel and it follows the efforts of a boy and his grandmother to destroy the child-hunting witches. It may seem too childish and silly in premise, but in reality, what we got here is a gem of a film and a gem of a story. This reminded me so much of Harry Potter and I would call it the more kid-friendly HP, but it stands on its owns as it is so authentic and original not only in terms of storytelling, but also in terms of the visuals.

I just loved everything about its plot. The beginning with the story told by the grandmother instantly hooked me in as it was so intriguing. And then when they go to the hotel where the witches of Britain meet, that just turns into a delight. The sequence where Luke accidentally watches their meeting is just amazing and is easily the finest scene here, a scene that is pleasantly campy, very detailed in approach and even creepy for children.

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The Witches Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

Now when the boy got turned into a mouse, well, that was somehow a detractor here. It is mostly fun and entertaining, but it did lead to those unfortunate prolonged action sequences with the mice that are so typical of the family flicks of the era that they annoyed me and significantly reduced the quality of the movie, not to mention affected the pacing. And the ending itself I didn’t mind as much as some others would, but it still begs the question of whether the original less happy ending would have been much better and I have to answer yes.

Luke is solid as a protagonist, but it his grandmother who is the more memorable character as she is so charming and likable and the relationship between the two is so sweet. Mr. Stringer is a solid character too and Bruno I disliked, but his parents were funny. Of the witches, Grand High Witch is of course the standout one as she a lot of fun, but also very menacing and such a great villain.

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The Witches Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

Some of the acting was too over-the-top, but Anjelica Huston’s performance is terrific here, it really is. She is very theatrical, but it suits the role quite well and she excels in it, obviously enjoying the role quite a bit. She is delightfully campy, menacing and memorable at the same time and she is the best member of the cast. But the others are solid as well with Rowan Atkinson and Mai Zetterling being quite good.

The Witches is such a strong fantasy movie because the fantasy elements here are just magnificent and the plot is so well crafted and meticulous in detail. Everything about the witches is great with the fact that they live in all world countries being so satisfying as well as the ending revealing that the two are off to USA to destroy the witches there. And I loved the story at the beginning that turned out to be true later on of course. The painting touch is great with the girl who got trapped there being such a great plot device and so poignant and unforgettable. That is why the eventual decision to turn the movie into chase/action/kiddie caper in its second half is disappointing as it was so fascinating and unique at first.

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The Witches Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

But even though it is sometimes too over-the-top, typical and too happy in its ending, those three flaws, although not that small, are still not big enough to detract from the quality and the enjoyment of the movie. And truly, this is one of the best fantasy and family flicks I’ve seen in a while. It is so well directed, mostly well paced and it is filled with great cinematography and superb creature design, courtesy of great Jim Henson. The witches look so good here and what the make-up and effects team did here is admirable. The film is not only excellent for kids, but also for adults as well as it is just dark enough to be interesting for adults, but not too creepy to scare the children. And the tone is good as it is menacing and creepy at times, but also fun and even funny sometimes with solid humor.

The Witches manages to transcend some typical scenes in the second half and an unfortunate happy ending with a delightful performance from Anjelica Huston, absolutely terrific creatures and cinematography, wonderful and detailed storytelling, a very fascinating first act, an unforgettable witch meeting sequence and such a menacing, quite dark tone. It is just mature enough to be great for both adults and children, it is so well told and crafted and it is one of the best fantasy as well as family films of the period.

My Rating – 4.5

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Posted in 1990, 1990s, Family, Fantasy, FILM DECADES, MOVIE REVIEWS and tagged , , , , , , , .

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