"This Halloween, bring the big screen home" with The Witches. This dark fantasy comedy film directed by Robert Zemeckis, adapted by Zemeckis, Kenya Barris, and Guillermo del Toro, and based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Roald Dahl. The film tells the darkly humorous and heartwarming tale of a young orphaned boy who, in late 1967, goes to live with his loving Grandma in the rural Alabama town of Demopolis. As the boy and his grandmother encounter some deceptively glamorous but thoroughly diabolical witches, she wisely whisks him away to a seaside resort. Regrettably, they arrive at precisely the same time that the world's Grand High Witch has gathered her fellow cronies from around the globe-undercover-to carry out her nefarious plans.
In December 2008, talks of a new adaptation of Dahl's novel began when del Toro expressed interest in writing and directing a stop motion film. No further developments on the potential project emerged until ten years later in June 2018, when Zemeckis was hired to direct and co-write. Del Toro would produce, alongside Zemeckis and Alfonso Cuarón. In January 2019, Anne Hathaway was cast in the role of Grand High Witch. Claire Foy, Uma Thurman, Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Rachel Weisz, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kristin Kreuk, Salma Hayek, Keira Knightley, Natalie Portman, Kate Beckinsale, Charlotte Riley, Natalie Dormer and Jennifer Lopez were all considered as possible candidates for the role. In February, Octavia Spencer was cast as Grandma. By early May, Stanley Tucci, Kristin Chenoweth, Jahzir Kadeem Bruno, and Chris Rock rounded out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced and wrapped in late June. Filming took place in Warner Brothers Studios, Leavesden and Surrey, England; Alabama and Georgia. In July 2019, Zemeckis's regular collaborator, Alan Silvestri, was hired to score the film. The film was originally scheduled for October 16, 2020 release date. However, in late October, Warner Bros. moved up the release of the film by a week. However, in early June 2020, Warner Bros. announced that they pulled the film off the 2020 schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, the film was digitally released in the United States on October 22, 2020 via HBO Max, with an October 28 2020 release date for international markets.
The film stars Hathaway, Spencer, Tucci, Chenoweth, Bruno, and Rock. The cast hits the sweet spot despite Hathaway's 'interesting' take on the Grand High Witch.
Witty, wonderful and wildly imaginative, Zemeckis's first proper 'family movie' since A Christmas Carol delivers a fun scare that'll last for days. Zemeckis commands his environments with such exacting precision that one can't help but lose oneself in the intricate layers of sets and costumes. Though the idea of a Zemeckis / Dahl collaboration would seem a perfect aligning of sensibilities, it becomes incredibly apparent that the director's pretenses get in the way of Dahl's simpler intent. Of the somewhat overlong a hundred-and-six minute running time, there's an entertaining ninety minutes of eye candy with a dark, daring center.