The Reel Review
This adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1983 novel on HBO Max is the story of a young boy, his grandma and their run-in with a coven of child-hating witches, whose upcoming children’s charity event at a fancy hotel on the Alabama coast is the setting for something far more sinister.
First off, the visuals in this adaptation, from the costuming, technicolor set design and MOST of the CGI, are very well done. Those witches’ feet and Jokeresque mouths – yikes! And Octavia Spencer, as the grandma, really sells the story, giving this adaptation, co-written by director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Contact, Allied), Guillermo del Toro and Kenya Barris, its own, uniquely kid-friendly tone. The darker, scarier 1990 adaptation that starred Angelica Huston, however, is still a bit better.
The weakest points in The Witches are minor – although she’s clearly having a high time as the Grand High Witch, Anne Hathaway’s accent seems to have ridden a broomstick through several countries en route to the finale, and there are a handful of scenes where the CGI is so fake looking that it detracts from the action. But in all, this 2020 adaptation is an entertaining tale with a nice message about family and accepting yourself for who you are.
• Among those who were also in the running for Anne Hathaway’s role of Grand High Witch: Kate Beckinsale, Natalie Dormer, Claire Foy, Salma Hayek, Keira Knightley, Jennifer Lopez, Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron, Uma Thurman, Kate Winslet, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
• Anne Hathaway and Stanley Tucci also starred together in 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada.
• Kristin Chenoweth is the voice of Daisy the mouse.