The Witches (2020)
The Witches is a 2020 dark fantasy comedy film directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Zemeckis, Kenya Barris, and Guillermo del Toro. It is based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Roald Dahl and is the second feature-length adaptation of the novel, following the 1990 film of the same name directed by Nicolas Roeg. The film is narrated by Chris Rock. The Witches was made available on HBO Max in the United States on October 22, 2020, with a theatrical release in select international markets beginning on October 28, 2020.
In late 1967, a young orphaned boy goes to live with his loving grandma in the rural Alabama town of Demopolis. As the boy and his grandmother encounter some deceptively glamorous but thoroughly diabolical witches, she wisely whisks him away to a seaside resort. Regrettably, they arrive at precisely the same time that the world's Grand High Witch has gathered her fellow cronies from around the globe -- under cover -- to carry out her nefarious plans.
- Anne Hathaway's over-the-top acting and inconsistent accent make her hard to take seriously as the Grand High Witch.
- Chris Rock's narration is rather distracting, as his narrative style clashes badly with the film's tone.
- When the actors aren't hamming it up, they're phoning in their performances.
- Excessive use of mediocre CGI, which looks really fake and compares unfavorably to the practical effects and animatronics of the 1990 film.
- There's no real attempt at worldbuilding. Things just kind of happen without any explanation.
- Similarly, none of the characters are really developed, so it's kind of hard to care about them.
- The setting is changed from England to 1968 Alabama, which ultimately comes off as kind of pointless, as it doesn't really factor into the movie despite the race of the characters and events at the time.
- Overall, the movie lacks the creativity and heart of the 1990 film.
- Anne Hathaway's cheesy acting is kind of fun to watch.
- Octavia Spencer's acting is decent, probably the best in the movie.
- The crappy CGI at least does succeed in making the characters look kind of scary.
- For those who preferred it, this movie uses the book's ending.
The Witches received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics, audiences and fans alike, who deemed it inferior to Roeg's film, though Hathaway's performance received praise. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 49% of 154 critic reviews are positive for The Witches, with an average rating of 5.50/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "The Witches misses a few spells, but Anne Hathaway's game performance might be enough to bewitch fans of this Roald Dahl tale.". According to Metacritic, which sampled 30 critics and calculated a weighted average score of 47 out of 100, the film received "mixed or average reviews".
- There was controversy after the film's release from disability advocates over the film's portrayal of the witches having three fingers being portrayed as hideous and deformed.