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  • Writer's pictureJFS the Reviewer

The Witches (1990) vs. the Witches (2020) review


The Witches was a children’s dark fantasy novel, written by Roald Dahl. It was a about a young boy, being raised by his grandmother after his parents were killed in a tragic car accident. The grandmother tells her grandson about how witches are real, how to spot one, why they hate children, and what happened to her best friend when she was little. The young boy eventually encounters the Grand High Witch, who is the leader of all the witches in the world.

The Grand High Witch turns the boy into a mouse and plans to do the same to all the children in the world. The young boy with his grandmother, together are able to stop the witches and save the day.

A live-action movie soon was made in 1990 and was also the last project that Jim Henson would work on before his death. The movie did well among critics and even with the audience. Making back $15 million dollars in the box office, while making some changes to the film from the book, including its ending. Something the author was not happy with, but the rest of the audience seemed fine with.

30 years later, we finally got a remake of the live action the Witches movie. Much like the 1990 film, changes were made to this film to be a little different than the original. And by “little” I mean, they made a lot of changes to make this completely different from the original film. Even from the original novel too.

Warner Bros. brought in Robert Zemeckis to direct the film, while also acting as one of the five producers of the film, and screenplay writer too. Along with Guillermo del Toro, who was brought in as a producer and for screenplay. The film also stars a number of famous celebrities, including Anne Hathaway as the main antagonist. So, with so many people involved in the film and such a great cast, what could go wrong?

Everything…everything could go wrong.


The story of the film follows like the original film and book, but like I said with some changes. The first is the main character is black colored and isn’t from the United Kingdom like from the original sources. However, they do try to make sure to keep to the original film and story as well as much as they can. From how the boy lost his parents in an accident, the grandmother caring for him, she tells him about witches being real, and then to the hotel.

Once more though, the story for this film changes there as well. They add in another female character to join our main characters and help them after they were transformed into mice. After this, they do try to keep it to where they have to stop the witches from going through with their plan to turn every child into a mouse, pour the potion in the soup, and stop the witches. However, once more here’s some more changes.

They tried to keep it to the book, where the Hero Boy and his friends remain in their mice form. In the book, the young boy accepts this since he knows mice don’t live for long and his grandmother won’t live long either. However, in this film, they tried to have it be like the original where, even though the boy is still a mouse, he’s going to go with his grandmother to hunt down the witches.

Even plans to lead a group of children to join in the hunt so they can wipe out the witches for book.

Okay, so two things:

First, I didn’t mind them wanting to make changes to the story and that’s fine. The opening with the grandmother seeing her grandson after losing his parents was actually touching. I liked it and her trying to cheer him up was a nice moment. But once he meets one of the witches, the rest of the film went downhill.

The story becomes less fun, becomes annoying, dumb, and no longer had the heart of the original film. Not even the heart of the original novel as well. It’s such a shame too, because I think they could have tried to make the story still gone through with their changes. Without of course making it bad.

The second part of the film I had an issue with is its tone with how the story is told. With the original, you cared about our young hero succeeding in his mission to stop the witches. You are hooked on learning more about these witches and you can see them as a big threat with what they did with the best friend of the grandmother. And they are able to do that without getting too goofy.

Unfortunately, the film goes too goofy with the stuff they do, they make the film less serious, and more like it’s a cartoon movie. Heck, the special effects they use in certain scenes seem to back this up. You lose the audience who grew up with the original film and love the tone the film set. With this new one, the tone they set is…just make everything wacky, goofy, and less fun.

It’s a shame too, because I do love the plot of the original film and novel. I think again they could have kept to the changes they made, but the stuff they threw into the story…it just ruined it all. Now, I had hope with the characters, they would have done a good job. That the actors would have still done a good job making the film fun with the roles they played.

Oh, how wrong was I.


The film also stars Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch, Octavia Spencer as the grandmother, Jahzir Kadeem as the grandson who is called Hero Boy, while Chris Rock voices as the narrator and the older version of Hero Boy. Stanley Tucci as the hotel manager, Codie-Lei Eastick as Bruno Jenkins, and Kristin Chenoweth as Daisy, as one of the kids who was turned into a mouse.

Okay, with a cast like that you would think they would be able to do a good job with the film. They would be able to make their characters be a lot like the original or maybe even better. Even though they know they are in a bad film, they can still have some fun. That they can still salvage this film as much as they can.

Hmm…not even close. Let’s start off with the young actors/actresses with how they did with their roles. I didn’t mind Jahzir’s performance at first and didn’t mind the changes they made with him as Luke from the original film. However, he doesn’t seem to act like how a kid would act. For example, when the first witch he met shows the CGI snake, he just stood there looking at it.

If I was in his shoe, I’d be running away in terror from what I just saw or act scared. But the kid…not even close. Even after becoming a mouse, his character changes and not in a good way. What I like about Luke from the original film is he acts how a kid would act and despite being a mouse still tries to save the day. Without sounding like he’s just reading from a script.

As for the other two kid actors, they did all right. A little better than the main character and honestly? Better than Chris Rock, who as the narrator. This also felt like something you’d see from his old show and how he narrated for that one too. This felt like a bad comedy skit and not something you’d see on Saturday Night Live.

Anyways, Stanley Tucci did all right, but he didn’t get to do much in the film and didn’t leave much of an impression like Mr. Bean did in the original. Octavia Spencer did feel like she gave it her best to try making the film work, but hard to take her seriously when she’s talking to nothing. If they had used the puppet mice from the original film, then it could have been better.

The one who I felt was phoning it in was Anne Hathaway. I didn’t feel like she gave it her all in this role, but I blame it more on the script. The way her character is portrayed and how she is told to act…I feel like she just followed what she was told. While going goofy, but not in a fun way like you’ve seen actors like Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close did with their wacky performance.

Heck, Anne’s character the Grand High Witch here is not as cool or intimidating as the original. The original was scary, fierce, and dangerous. The new version along with all the witches…are so terrible. Not even close to being a threat to anyone.

Heck, the Wicked Witch from Oz the Great and Powerful felt more like a threat than these witches.

Okay, so I guess that means the special effects

Special effects/music/settings:

Okay, so the setting of the film they seem to try keeping the majority of the film in the hotel, which honestly? Doesn’t look as nice as the original. It also felt more like they shot it in a studio than on actual location. It also felt like they tried to make it look more glamorous to try to get people to like how the places look.

The music was meh. I had to write down on my notes to remember the music that was played, but it wasn’t that memorable. The original with its opening theme was not bad and how they played certain music during certain serious moments or even sad moments. In this one…hmm not much of that going on.

The special effects though were the worse of them all. Not only did they go over the top with the CGI, but they relied so much on it. From when the kids turn into mice and even a chicken at one point. Yes, with the CGI, they can try making the emotions look more realistic.

However, it still looks fake as hell and look so horrifying up close.

The Grand High Witch and the witches how they all look is even worse. It looks like Mileena’s (Mortal Kombat) long lost cousin. The makeup used for the original yes, I am aware takes too long and was hell for Anjelica Huston who played the Grand High Witch. But it looked more realistic and less horrifying to watch than what we would see with this remake.

I honestly am disappointed with this remake with how they relied so much of CGI for their special effects for this film. Even when the Grand High Witch kills someone, it still looks so stupid.

Final Thoughts:

The Witches remake is not a good remake. It’s one of the most disappointing remakes I have ever seen. It’s such a shame, because like I said before, I don’t mind the changes they tried to make. But how it was all done and executed was done poorly.

The story is boring, doesn’t have any heart of the original, and made me wish it would end sooner. The characters, I don’t blame them for how they portrayed their characters, because it was how it was written for them to act. The special effects really made the film look so stupid and goofy. And not in a fun way.

All in all, it’s a bad remake and one that I will never want to watch again. It’s not even a film that kids would enjoy. So, my advice? Show them the original and see if they’d prefer that one than this horrible film. Or heck, show them the book and see what they think.

It will be a lot better than watching the remake and seeing how bad they messed up with this film.


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