The Witches (2020 film)
Official release poster
|Directed by||Robert Zemeckis|
|Based on||The Witches|
by Roald Dahl
|Narrated by||Chris Rock|
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Distributed by||HBO Max (United States)|
Warner Bros. Pictures (International)
Roald Dahl's The Witches is a 2020 Mexican-American dark fantasy comedy film directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Zemeckis, Kenya Barris, and Guillermo del Toro, narrated by Chris Rock, and starring Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, and Stanley Tucci. 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.
The Witches was originally scheduled for a theatrical release by Warner Bros. Pictures, but was later pulled from the release calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film was later announced that it would be available to stream on HBO Max in the United States on October 22, 2020, with a theatrical release in select international markets beginning on October 28, 2020.
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Set in 1968 Alabama, an orphaned young boy named Charlie Hansen stumbles across a conference of witches while staying with his grandmother, Agatha, at a hotel, and gets transformed into a mouse by the Grand High Witch when he discovers her plan to turn all children into vermin. He and Agatha, with the help of two other children turned into mice named Bruno and Mary, must foil the witches' scheme and kill the Grand High Witch.
- Anne Hathaway as Grand High Witch, a powerful witch and sorceress who is the leader of all witches in the world.
- Octavia Spencer as Grandma, a retired witch hunter and Charlie's grandmother who is the long time old rival of the Grand High Witch.
- Stanley Tucci as Mr. Stringer, a hotel manager.
- Jahzir Kadeem Bruno as Hero Boy (Charlie Hansen), a young boy who is turned into a mouse by the Grand High Witch. Bruno also voices his mouse form.
- Codie-Lei Eastick as Bruno Jenkins, an English boy who is turned into a mouse. Eastick also voices his mouse form.
- Kristin Chenoweth as the voice of Daisy, Charlie's pet mouse. It's revealed that she was once a human girl named Mary who was turned into a mouse by the witches four months prior to the events of the film.
- Brian Bovell as Reginald
- Charles Edwards as Mr. Jenkins, the father of Bruno.
- Morgana Robinson as Mrs. Jenkins, the mother of Bruno.
- Josette Simon as Zelda, a witch.
- Eugenia Caruso as Consuella, a witch.
- Ana-Maria Maskell as Esmerelda, a witch.
- Orla O'Rourke as Saoirse, a witch.
- Penny Lisle as Lana, a witch.
- Simon Manyonda as Sous-Chef
Talks of a new adaptation of Dahl's novel began in December 2008, when Guillermo del Toro expressed interest in making a stop motion film. No further developments on the potential project emerged until ten years later in June 2018, when Robert Zemeckis was hired to direct and write the script. Del Toro would produce, alongside Zemeckis and Alfonso Cuarón, in addition to having a screenplay credit.
The film takes place in Alabama during the 1960s, instead of the novel's 1980s England and Norway, and the boy protagonist is African American, instead of Norwegian-British like the boy in the original novel and previous adaptations. Nevertheless the adaptation was described by Zemeckis as being closer to the original novel than 1990 adaptation, directed by Nicolas Roeg. Kenya Barris co-wrote the film.
In January 2019, Anne Hathaway was cast in the role of Grand High Witch. Octavia Spencer was cast in February, with newcomers Jahzir Bruno and Codie-Lei Eastick also joining. In May, Stanley Tucci and Chris Rock were added. In September 2020 it was revealed that Kristin Chenoweth was cast in the film.
Principal photography began on May 8, 2019, with filming locations including Alabama, Georgia and at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden in Hertfordshire, England and Virginia Water Lake in Surrey, England. It was expected to wrap on June 25. On June 19, a crew member was stabbed in the neck on the Warner Bros. Studios set in Leavesden.
The film was released on October 22, 2020, on HBO Max in the United States. It was previously scheduled to be released on October 9 then pushed to October 16, 2020, before being pulled entirely from the schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes collected 81 reviews and identified 51% of them as positive, with an average rating of 5.62/10. 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 26 critics and calculated a weighted average score of 46 out of 100, the film received "mixed or average reviews".
In his two out of four star review, Richard Roeper from Chicago Sun-Times praised the special effects and the performances, but found the film to be "far too disturbing for young children and not edgy enough to captivate adults." David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a D+ calling the film "dreadful" and stating, "Zemeckis has made some unsuccessful films over the last 20 years, but 'The Witches' is the most frustrating of them all because it feels like it could’ve been made by somebody else. Anybody else. Roeg's version may have scarred a generation of kids for life, but at least they remembered it."
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- Roeper, Richard (October 21, 2020). "The Witches' review: Too scary for children, too bland for adults". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
- Ehrlich, David (October 23, 2020). "'The Witches' Review: There's No Magic to Robert Zemeckis' Dreadful Roald Dahl Adaptation". IndieWire. Retrieved October 23, 2020.