❉ Campy, vampy, and slightly hammy, Anne Hathaway is a grand Grand High Witch.
“While critics might be quick to dismiss the film as insignificant in comparison to the original 1990 adaptation, it has potential to be a sleeper hit and gain a cult following for future generations. “
In 1990, Oscar winning actress Anjelica Houston terrified and traumatized countess children with her flawless portrayal of the Grand High Witch in the Nicolas Roeg film, The Witches. Based on the bestselling novel by British novelist and national English treasure, Roald Dahl, the film has been reinterpreted with Oscar winners Octavia Spencer and Anne Hathaway. This new adaptation of Dahl’s classic has its flaws, but it skyrockets above all the lukewarm live action Disney remakes that have been produced over the past 10 years. While critics might be quick to dismiss the film as insignificant in comparison to the original 1990 adaptation, it has potential to be a sleeper hit and gain a cult following for future generations. Some fans might also be critical of the numerous changes and artistic license taken with this new adaptation, but if they are able to view the film with an open mind, they might find some appreciation for it and even enjoy it.
Anne Hathaway gives a GRAND performance as the Grand High Witch, with classic campy terror and vaudevillian schtick humor. The German accent she uses sounds a bit dodgy from time to time, but it still works in some parts of the film. Although Hathaway might not instil the same terror upon younger viewers as Anjelica Houston, she nonetheless delivers a balanced and entertaining performance that is all her own. Let’s just say that if you are a fan of Miss Hathaway, you will be pleased with her performance. You also may never be able to watch The Princess Diaries or The Dark Knight Rises like you once did, because all you will be able to think is the Princess of Genovia/Catwoman turned into the Grand High Witch! A true testament to the raw talent that Hathaway has in embodying an eclectic mix of characters.
There are even some themes that reference Witches and how they compact with the devil that some people might have missed. For example, the Grand High Witch has a black cat named Hades. Hades is of course the Greek God of the Underworld, and often referenced as the western equivalence of the devil. The Grand High Witch also stays in room number 666, which is the “number of the Beast” in the book of Book of Revelation’s, and often associated with Satanism and black magic. And lastly when the Grand High Witch orders the pea soup for the banquet, she specifically requests that garlic be excluded from the recipe for she and the “ladies” are “allergic” to it. This could be a loose reference to medieval witch hunting beliefs and old wives’ tales that creatures of the devil (such as witches or vampires) cannot tolerate substances like garlic or salt (think back to Hocus Pocus, when they read in the witches spell book “only a circle of salt can protect thy victims from thy power), as they are cleansers of evil.
Octavia Spencer plays the role of the grandmother with all the tough love and southern spunk that you would expect to find in a grandmother. At the tender age of 49, Spencer might have been slightly too young to play a grandmother, but her mild mannered yet passionate performance, radiates the film against the madness in Hathaway’s performance. Clear eyed, charming, witty, and devoid of irony, Spencer nearly outshines Hathaway when they are on screen together. If anything, her performance in this film is more than enough validation that Spencer is worthy of broader roles, and that she should be given the chance to play more than just matronly characters.
The highest praise of this film goes to Hollywood newcomer, Jahzir Bruno, playing the hero boy who triumphs against the forces of evil. Bruno was perfectly cast in this role, and despite his young age, is very believable and sincere in his delivery. His character is perfectly relatable, down to earth, humble, and never displays any obnoxious adolescent moments. While watching the movie, kids will identify with his fears, and adults will be moved by his bravery and loyalty to those he loves.
❉ Roald Dahl’s The Witches is available to rent at home from your favourite digital retailer now at https://www.watchthewitches.co.uk.
❉ With credits including journalism writing, radio personality, lyric video producing, social media publishing, and graphic design, in 2019 Foster Hitchman released two independent film projects. The first was Lynne: The English Rose, which told the story and paid tribute to British actress, Lynne Frederick. The second was a three-part mini web series, Foster’s Features Interview with Julie Dawn Cole: All About Julie, where he interviewed British actress and star of the original Willy Wonka film, Julie Dawn Cole.