The Witches (2020) will never be half as disturbing as the original 1990 adaptation. This isn’t the first time a Roald Dahl book has been readapted. Since I didn’t grow up watching The Witches (1990), I can’t say I objected to the idea. Though I wasn’t expecting it so soon on HBO Max (thanks to the pandemic). Robert Zemeckis was attached to direct and screenwriter Guillermo del Toro continued to push for more dark children’s films. The Witches (2020) was also co-written by black-ish creator Kenya Barris.
This version of the story is now set in 60’s Alabama instead of 80’s England. The renamed Charlie and his grandma Agatha are both African American. The change doesn’t do much aside from adding in race relations. Plus somewhat distracting Chris Rock narration. Octavia Spencer is just as strong-willed as the original actress. They stay at a hotel now ran by Stanley Tucci. The titular witches loom over the hotel and have the bald heads, square feet, and hatred of children just like the original. The primary difference is their three finger claw hands that caused an unnecessary outcry among disabled individuals.
Anne Hathaway is a suitable Grand High Witch, but Anjelica Huston already set the bar really high. Hathaway is a little too cartoonish and nowhere near as grotesque with a simple toothy grin. The tone feels too safe and the CGI used on the mice isn’t as convincing as puppetry. Charlie and his fat friend Bruno are still turned into mice, but female mouse Daisy is added as they plan to take down the evil witches. Unlike the original, the book’s bittersweet ending is kept intact. The Witches (2020) doesn’t push many boundaries.
Remake of: The Witches (1990)