THE WITCHES Review; "A Visual Delight, With Octavia Spencer And Anne Hathaway On Top Form"

THE WITCHES Review; "A Visual Delight, With Octavia Spencer And Anne Hathaway On Top Form"

The Witches arrives on HBO Max tomorrow and in select cinemas on October 28th, but how does Robert Zemeckis' delightfully dark take on Roald Dahl's classic novel fare heading into the Halloween season?

The Witches is based on one of Roald Dahl's most twisted tales, and Robert Zemeckis' adaptation of the 1983 novel (which was previously adapted in 1990) is every bit as weird and dark, no great surprise when Guillermo del Toro has a writing credit alongside Zemeckis and Kenya Barris. Originally set to be released in cinemas, COVID-19 means it's heading to HBO Max tomorrow before receiving a theatrical release in select locations - like the UK - on October 28th. Set in 1960s Alabama, this take follows an orphaned boy who moves in with his grandmother and stumbles across a plot by a nefarious group of witches. Ultimately, he's turned into a mouse, and what's on offer here is a visually stunning, quirky adventure that veers between dark fantasy drama and family friendly fun. 

There's definitely some corner cutting in terms of how the story plays out, and tonally, it feels like The Witches isn't quite sure what it wants to be. At times, it's a family friendly caper with talking mice, funny gags, and a charming feel which makes it easy to recommend. However, there are also occasions where events definitely feel too dark for younger viewers, and the movie doesn't really commit to being one thing or the other. That approach is fitting for a Dahl tale in some respects, of course, and some of his stranger, controversial, ideas remain. There's also something to be said about the fact the 60s era Alabama the story takes place in seems unusually idyllic, and an opportunity to educate younger viewers was missed.

Making those flaws somewhat easier to overlook is just how much of an enjoyable experience The Witches proves to be. This colourful world leaps off the screen, and the cast is on top form. Octavia Spencer is an absolute joy to watch, and honestly the grandmother we probably all wish we could have. A likeable presence from start to finish, she steals the show in every scene, and continues to be one of Hollywood's finest talents. The young Jahzir Kadeem is superb, while Stanley Tucci is as entertaining as ever. Anne Hathaway, meanwhile, plays The Grand High Witch, and The Witches' lead villain. While her accent is, something, the actress chews the scenery up as this formidable baddie, and is in equal parts terrifying and a blast to watch. She won't just give your kids nightmares, but perhaps you too. 

Alan Silvestri beautifully compliments the action playing out on screen, while there are plenty of eye-catching, dazzling special effects. The Witches proves that there's still plenty of life in Dahl's stories for the world of film, and it would be no bad thing for Warner Bros. to continue bringing those to the big screen or, in this case, streaming. Like the iconic author's novels, things do sometimes get a little strange or uncomfortable, but that's part of the charm, and there's enough here to love to make it a priority now and over the Halloween season. 

The Witches is a visual delight, with Octavia Spencer and Anne Hathaway on top form. Despite being a little too dark in places, this latest adaptation of the story without a doubt does Roald Dahl's work justice.
 

IF

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