Warner Archive gives kids of all ages a special back-to-school treat regarding the August 20, 2019 blu-ray release of the 1990 Jim Henson adaptation of the Roald Dahl children's story "The Witches." The fun begins with casting future silver-screen Morticia Addams Anjelica Huston as Eva Ernst/Grand High Witch.
The typical bright and bold remastering by Archive is another bewitching element of this one.
The accolades for this BAFTA-nominated film include well-deserved Best Actress wins for Huston at the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, and the National Society of Film Critics Awards.
It is a travesty that the incredible Henson Company effects are snubbed awardwise.
The following SPOILER-DRIPPING trailer for "Witches" will make you believe that a boy can squeal. This embracing of the story by all involved is the icing on the cake as to this tale by the author of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach."
The proper mix of exposition and starting the action uses the same method as fellow literary classic turned awesome flick "The Princess Bride." Nine year-old Luke is in Norway, where his paternal grandmother Helga (Mai Zetterling) is telling him about her childhood experience with witches snatching her friend and imprisoning her inside a painting until this captive grows old and fades away.
Helga also provides good foreshadowing in the form of telling Luke how to see through disguises that witches don to blend in with us muggles. The additional lore regarding the dislike with extreme prejudice that characterizes the attitude of witches toward children provides Luke a hilarious excuse to not regularly bathe. Parents and significant others of adolescent and post-adolescent males are advise to try this technique as to using Axe body spray,
Subsequent events lead to Helga and Luke moving to England, where the training that the latter has received allows him to avoid extreme stranger danger,. He figuratively goes from the frying pan into the fire when a seaside holiday with Gram coincides with a surprisingly successfully covert witch convention at the same hotel owned and operated by Mr. Stringer (Rowan "Mr. Bean" Atkinson).
While at the hotel, Luke befriends a Dahl stereotype in the form of pudgy gluttonous Bruno Jenkins. That problem child is staying there with his wealthy and demanding father (Bill Paterson) and mother (Bremda Blethyn).
The rest of this "Harry Potter" caliber British cast includes Jane Horrocks of "Absolutely Fabulous" playing to type in her role as the quirky assistant of Eva.
Luke is in the right place at the right time in that playing with his pet rodents in a meeting room allows him to listen in on the plan of the not-so-beloved sorceresses to transform all of this children of the world into mice. He is in the wrong place at the wrong time in that the attendees find their eavesdropper and use him as a guinea pig.
Our hero must now determine if he is a man or a mouse in that he either will beat tremendous odds in stopping the fagless hags from tuning his peers into rodents or will lean to accept his new normal.
Hilarity and chaos ensue in equal measure as to the climax regarding which (no pun intended) the objective is to give the villainesses a taste of their own medicine,
Henson and Dahl save some of their best for last as to the epilogue. We learn that staying calm and carrying on is not always required,
The larger truth is that the genius of the aforementioned collaborators is their skill in creating children's fare that appeals to everyone; "Witches" has plenty for anyone who qualifies as friend or family to love.