Film Review – The Witches (2020)

films, reviews

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A lot of stuff happened in 2020. A lot. Something that definitely didn’t happen was me watching films. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Nobody was in a great place that year and one of the consequences for me was losing a desire to sit and watch a movie. Yet I could binge-watch several episodes of TV in a row. It doesn’t make sense. It’s never made sense but it’s how it was. Whatever the reason, I have a whole year’s worth of films to catch up on. I guess you could ask if I wasn’t bothered then, why would I be bothered now? I don’t know. What I do know is that I needed a film to review this week and I saw this on Prime.

I must have read The Witches when I was younger but I have no memory of it. We definitely had the book because we had every Roald Dahl book. I have seen the 1990 adaptation starring Angelica Houston. A classic film. It’s creepy and weird. Yes, it has its problems but I still enjoyed it enough to not care so much about a remake. Especially one starring Anne Hathaway putting on an accent. I’m still not over One Day where she tries to do a Yorkshire accent. However, I was quite interested to try this. I’d heard that it was pretty scary.

I can see what people meant when they said that but I still wouldn’t have said that it’s a terrifying experience. The CGI isn’t as convincing as the prosthetics on the earlier film. It lacks that physical touch that made the previous film so memorable. For me, it wasn’t as easy to lose yourself in this film because you were always just watching Anne Hathaway with a bunch of CGI and a terrible accent. I’d read a lot of praise for her performance when this film came out but I really don’t see what all the fuss is about. She doesn’t excel in this role and doesn’t do it justice.

In terms of the story, I don’t think this film adds much to it. The idea was there though. This should have been the chance to touch on so many different ideas: social status and race being the main two here. Yet, it’s all just wasted. There would have been a perfect link to so many current topics without making this story preachy. Yet, it’s all just wasted on something that really doesn’t add to the source material. I do have to wonder what this could have been if it had been made by somebody else.

In the hands of Robert Zemeckis, this is a film that is too scary for really young kids and too dull for older kids. Not even diehard Dahl fans could find a lot to praise with this one. There’s none of the charm of his stories and none of the enjoyable darkness. Instead, it’s all just amped up too much. It’s a classic Hollywood mistake of taking something quintessentially British and then chucking big-name stars into the mix. Some of them work well. Octavia Spencer and Stanley Tucci were understatedly perfect in their roles. Hathaway takes it too far. She’s hamming it up so much that she loses any kind of edge.

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