Major new releases are few and far between these days, but HBO Max is changing all that by distributing Robert Zemeckis' latest film, a new adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic The Witches. Many 90's kids feel a lot of nostalgia for the Anjelica Huston version that came out in 1990 and were skeptical that another iteration was necessary. It's a simple tale already well told, and Zemeckis has been much more miss than hit in the last twenty or so years. Still, he was able to lure Oscar winners Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer to the project so there had to be something noteworthy about it right?
The Witches follow a boy (Jahzir Bruno) and his Grandma (Octavia Spencer) as they just so happen to stay in the same hotel as a group of witches who have gathered to hold a convention. The boy stumbles onto this meeting and soon discovers that the witches have a plan to turn every child in America into a mouse. The boy and his Grandma must team up to stop these witches before its too late.
The first film is a really straightforward movie. This version takes every single thing that happened in the other movie and drags each sequence out to feel nearly twice as long. Every situation must have added manufactured suspense. The look of the film is cheery and pastel, and the soundtrack full of a lot of great Motown hits is fantastic. The film seems to want to say something by changing the setting to the southern United States in the 1960s, but really doesn't actually say anything. The usually reliable Octavia Spencer definitely gives off the sense here that she's going through the motions.The only one actually having fun is definitely Hathaway, though she's not helped much by the design of her character, The Grand High Witch's true form. The CGI is actually quite dreadful. Some of the worst I've seen in years (well...aside from Cats.) Not only does Hathaway just look...weird, so too do the mice. I definitely was missing the fun animatronic mice of the first movie. The Witches 2020 tries so hard to be more of everything, but somehow manages to be less in every way. As hard as Anne Hathaway and her charisma try (as well as her horrendously phony Euro accent) she just can't save this movie.