Okay, so I’m just going to hit the ground running with this one. If y’all seen my reviews, y’all know witches (and other magic-users) are my favorite fantasy/horror being/creature/monster. So, you would think having the trailer drop for the remake of Roald Dahl’s The Witches would have me excited….oh boy, let’s get into this…
The New Grand High Witch
The trailer for 2020 The Witches dropped, and it won’t be a long wait to actually see it, as the trailer revealed that the movie will hit the HBO Max streaming service later this month on October 22. Now, with that out of the way, here’s what the trailer showed us.
The movie’s main protagonist is a young Black boy (who apparently will grow up to be Chris Rock, as that is his adult voice telling this story) going to live with his grandmother (Octavia Spencer) after the death of his mother. His grandmother works to cheer him up and takes him on a vacation (I’m sorta guessing here simply based on having watched the original). However, they just so happen to be vacationing at the same hotel as a meeting of witches with the Grand High Witch herself being played by Anne Hathaway. The Grand High Witch tells the other witches of her plan to rid the world of children, and our protagonist finds out and is unfortunately turned into a mouse. We see some hijinks ensue before the trailer closes, and that about it.
The trailer didn’t reveal too much beside the three big names of the movie (including Stanley Tucci, who plays the hotel manager/concierge.) So, how does this hold up to the 1990’s version of the movie.
Not My Witches
The original The Witches gave a darker tone from jump. It took place in a dreary part of England, so everything already had a sad atmosphere for something that was a kid’s movie. So, this “re-imaging” as director Robert Zemeckis (The Polar Express, Beowulf, Welcome to Marwen) calls it, trades out the entirety of the country and brings us to America for our setting. It takes place in the mid 1960’s as we hear the Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There” playing on the TV. I also read that it’s supposed to be in Alabama, which would explain the old plantation house looking hotel we see them going to in the trailer. Lastly, of course, the added diversity is very noticeable with the protagonist characters as well as one witch who I am *SPOILER ALERT MAYBE* pretty sure will probably be the right-hand witch to the Grand High Witch. Actually, I’ll stop there so it won’t be much of a spoiler.
The remake/re-imaging of the 1990’s The Witches has definitely been updated and stylized with some saturated colors. It’s a stark contrast to the darker palette more neutral and muted colors of the original movie. The new color palette is very much like the 2005 remake of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Long story short, I didn’t like that, and I’m not liking the look of this as well. I guess part of the problem is that I have to admit that both those remakes were trying to gear themselves more in the comedy for kids market as in both the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and 1990 The Witches have a very creepy, sad, sinister undertone.
Anjelica vs. Anne
For me, the biggest tone shift was most felt in our Grand High Witch. In the 1990’s The Witches, Anjelica Huston plays the most powerful witch in all of England. From the first time you see come on screen, you feel that her smile hides her true evil nature. You fully believe that she has power, right down to the bad ass skin-tight black dress she’s wearing.
In this new version, Anne Hathaway will take the role of the Grand High Witch. The moment I saw her, and she opened her mouth I was completely taken out of it, because it sounded so phony. I asked myself am I supposed to be afraid of the Grand High Karen. This iteration of the Grand High Witch is more on the comedy end of the spectrum, and I guess in the long run that is what I have to accept.
I remember at the end of the 1990’s The Witches the main character tells his grandmother that he found a book with the names and addresses of all the witches in America, and that they are going to go there and kill them too. What if this re-imaging is that idea? These are the American witches that Luke, the main character of the 1990’s movie was talking about. It would make sense in certain ways since he main characters have different names.
I’m actually glad I came to this thought, because, besides Anne’s atrocious accent (whatever it is supposed to be), it allows for me to only gently critique this against my childhood love of the 1990’s movie. So, I guess I’ll give it a chance….maybe…
Check it out on HBO Max October 22. Just in time for Halloween.
Cover Photo Courtesy of Deadline.com.