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ESP’s film critic Gavin Miller reviews what’s on the small screen while the cinemas are closed, and settles back on the sofa to see whether The Witches is a magical remake…

This remake of 1990’s much-loved The Witches is glossily passable family entertainment – but lacks the magic of the original.

The Anjelica Huston-led version had a raw charm – aided by Jim Henson’s special effects – but sadly highly-acclaimed Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis just seems to be going through the motions with this modern-era by-the-numbers upgrade on Roald Dahl’s iconic story.

Chris Rock’s narrator tells the story of Hero Boy (Jahzir Bruno), a timid bereft orphaned young boy, who goes to live with his Grandma (The Help’s Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer) in 1968 Alabama – after his parents died in a car crash.

Slowly he comes out of his shell when he acquires a new pet mouse called Daisy, but then his world is once again thrown into turmoil when he is enticed by a witch in a supermarket – but runs back to his Grandma.

After telling her the story, she reveals that witches are indeed real – recalling the tale of her best friend Alice who was turned into a chicken – and never leave once they’ve found a child.

So Hero Boy and his grandma up and leave their homestead to seemingly travel out of harm’s way in a posh upmarket hotel – but it just happens that the Grand High Witch (Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway) is holding a convention at the same venue.

But when Hero Boy sneaks under the stage to hear the witches dastardly plans to turn all children into mice, he and fellow hotel guest Bruno (Codie-Lei Eastick) get turned into rodents – and team up with Hero Boy’s pet mouse Daisy (who is actually named Mary, voiced by Kristin Chenoweth) and Grandma to try and steal the potions to find a cure. And to put a stop to Grand High Witch’s nefarious scheme in the process.

But while it does tick the basic family entertainment boxes – despite the best efforts of Hathaway – it just feels a little flat compared to the original. And that’s even with Oscar-winning director Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water) in a production capacity too.

For a big-budget blockbuster originally meant for the cinema it lacks that certain magnetic charm to linger in the memory too long – and some of the witch transformation scenes definitely push the boundaries of PG for little ‘uns as well.

Which leaves these witches struggling to cast a truly magical spell.

Rating: 2.5/5

Gavin Miller

Cast: Octavia Spencer, Anne Hathaway, Jahzir Bruno, Stanley Tucci, Codie-Lei Eastick & The Voices Of Kristin Chenoweth & Chris Rock

Running Time: 1 Hr 46 Mins

Director: Robert Zemeckis


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