Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Witches

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

A Young Boy (Jahzir Kadeem Bruno) is orphaned in a car accident during the snowy winter of 1968. He relocates from Illinois to Alabama to live with his Grandma (Octavia Spencer) who does her best to give him a semblance of normalcy given their circumstances. Just as the kid is about to recover from his trauma, a witch starts stalking him. As he narrates the encounter to his grandmother, he is surprised to find out that she believes him, and even recalls how her childhood best friend was victimized by a witch by turning her into a chicken. Both of them flee and check-in to a high-class hotel, banking on the belief that the witches only prey on poor children who won’t be missed by their families. Unbeknownst to them, the very same resort is currently hosting a convention for a coven disguised as a child-support group, led by the Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway) herself.

I actually enjoyed this movie! Zemeckis has a strange brand of filmmaking that’s hard to explain. Suffice it to say that he always manages to transport you to a different world and make you enjoy the film by feeling like a kid again. This remake is far from perfect but again, I totally had fun, which is weird when you are an adult watching a narrative with talking mice and flying witches. Or perhaps my viewing experience has been great because I have never seen the Anjelica Huston version and, thus, have nothing to compare it to?

Yes, most of the beef people seem to have with this remake is the very existence of the original, which apparently has a big cult following. Again, I wouldn’t know which is better because I have not seen that one, nor do I have plans on doing so. I can only judge it based on the storyline and the plot, both of which I find rather weird, the message quite unsettling when you think about it. The film ends in a positive note via a global revenge plot against the witches, but the way they resolve the subplot involving the children seems a bit too dark, traumatizing even, for young children, in spite of its victorious tone.

I guess what I enjoyed the most were the performances. Hathaway is delightfully camp in her rendition of the Grand High Witch. Her accent is difficult to place. Sometimes it sounds trying hard to be German or French, but then again her character’s origins are never alluded to. She is just a white woman who hates children and always calls the manager, like a witchy Karen if you must. Perhaps the most important thing is that she seemed to be having a blast portraying the character, which you can feel through her performance.

Spencer offers the warmth as the headstrong grandma who loves her grandson unconditionally. The dialogues and all the talk about absurd stuff can sometimes make one cringe, but Spencer tackles the role with mucho gusto, as if she really believed all the absurdity involved in the storyline. What it does is it helps you better suspend your disbelief and just ride along with the premise. Stanley Tucci as the Manager does not offer much due to his limited screen time, while Kristin Chenoweth as the voice of Daisy the pet mouse is unrecognizable with her southern drawl.

As for the ending, it just brings you back to the opening scene where the boy, now an adult and voiced by Chris Rock, lectures a group of kids about witches. To reiterate, the culmination of the storyline is not your conventional happy ending even though the protagonists are sort of winning. Maybe the best way to appreciate this material is by comparing it to a parable or a dark fairytale meant to teach young kids a lesson or two about life.

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