Roald Dahl’s children’s novel, The Witches, is a classic. Shortly after its publication in 1983, it was turned into a stage play, a two-part radio show for the BBC, and a film starring Anjelica Huston. Robert Zemeckis is retelling the story and Paul McGuire Grimes chats with the stars of the film.
THE WITCHES (HBO Max)
The wild imagination of children’s author Roald Dahl has been enchanting readers and movie goers for years. If you’re my age, you may remember Anjelica Houston scaring you as a kid when she brought The Grand High Witch to life. Now it’s Anne Hathaway’s turn to spook kids. The Witches opens with Chris Rock’s narration recounting a childhood memory from when he was young. He plays Charlie, an orphaned boy raised by his grandmother (Octavia Spencer) after his parents were killed in a car accident. After being spotted by a witch, the two of them escape to a luxurious hotel. Unfortunately for them a coven of witches arrives for their annual convention. Charlie overhears The Grand High Witch’s plot to turn all children into mice and sets out to stop them with the help of his grandma and friends Bruno and Daisy.
Zemeckis has made this a bit more family friendly than I remember the original film being back in the day. It is very CGI heavy from the mice to all of the witch effects. I think this make it a elevates the fantasy style with its outlandish elements and less scary than the practical effects that have a tangible realistic effect. Zemeckis finds a good balance with the humor and the effects while still keeping it kooky like Roald Dahl’s material.
The Witches will be easy Halloween fair this year, but I think the original will reign supreme for my generation. Zemeckis keeps this version fairly simple and straight forward. Don’t expect big character development, side storylines, or even experimental filmmaking. It keeps its core demographic in mind at all times.
RATING: 3 out of 5 Ticket Stubs
IT’S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN (AppleTV+)
The classic Charlie Brown Halloween special, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, is on AppleTV+ this year breaking from their annual spot on CBS. The Charlie Brown holidays special will now be available on the streaming service as part of a new deal with the production company and AppleTV with all-new specials in the works. Not a subscriber? No worries. It will be streaming for free from October 30-November 1. The Thanksgiving and Christmas specials will start streaming later this year.
Other Family Halloween selections
The Addams Family (1992) – Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christina Ricci (Netflix)
Goosebumps (2015) – Jack Black, Dylan Minnette (Netflix)
the witches (1990) Anjelica huston, Mai Zetterling, Rowan Atkinson (Netflix)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)- (Disney+)
Frankenweenie (2012) – Tim Burton’s take on Frankenstein with a dog named Sparky as the creature (Disney+)
Hocus Pocus (1993) Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy (Disney+)