Monday, December 10, 2012

The Witches

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

The Witches – 4 out of 5

I have many fond memories of watching this movie as a young man and I hadn’t seen it for years. I got my hands on a copy around Halloween (you know, because of witches) but haven’t got around to watching it till now (you know, because of witches) and, it’s one of those movies that stands up to the scrutiny of my memories. It’s just as good now, as it was then!

If you haven’t seen The Witches, first off, what the hell, man? It’s awesome. It’s about witches, there are some talking mice in it and it was the last movie Jim Henson worked on before he passed away. What’s not to like about it? Also, Michael Palin has a cameo in it as a woman AND as a witch!

And there he is!

"Enough about the witches, Luke...let me tell you
about my morning bowel movement..."
The Witches tells the story of a young boy named Luke (Jasen Fisher) who loses his parents and ends up living with his Grandma Helga (Mai Zetterling—if that’s not the name of a cult leader, I don’t know what is). Well, Granny Helga is a little bit obsessed with witches…mostly because she lost part of her finger to one and Granny can't let some things go. Well, Granny fills Luke’s head with the warning signs and danger of witches (and doesn’t talk much about accepting candy from strangers in windowless vans). As luck would have it, Grams and Luke go on holiday (vacation is how Americans say it and of course we would say it rudely while doing it) near the sea side and it turns out that every witch in England is there for their annual witch convention (what kind of cosplay happens at a witch convention?).

Probably this, I'm thinking.

The actor portraying Luke would go on to be in Hookand then nothing else.
The witches are out to get rid of all kids in the world and the Grand High Witch (Angelica Huston) has created a potion that can turn children into mice. She shows off this potion by ushering a fat boy (because fuck fat kids) named Bruno Jenkins (Charlie Potter) who consumed the potion through chocolate and, sure enough, turns into a mouse. Sadly, Luke saw the whole thing and the magic crones feed the potion to him. Now it’s up to Luke and Bruno (in mouse form) to team with Grandma Helga to stop the witches from implementing their plans…but they also have to deal with Mr. Bean running the hotel and dealing with the sudden on-set of a rodent infestation problem.

They go on holiday to Stan Lee's favorite hotel.

I was just a 9 year old boy when this movie came out but I have fond memories of watching it…and then wishing I got to turn into a mouse that retained the ability to speak. Come to think of it, the witches didn’t really think this plan through because I don’t think there’s a kid in the world who wouldn’t think it would be awesome to be a mouse. Luke even points out that he would no longer have to go to the school. So the movie, in a sense, is endorsing witchcraft and telling kids to find a witch and have her change you into a rat because you’ll never have to do chores or go to school again and forget that whole using the toilet, mice just poop wherever they damn well feel like it.

As a 9 year old boy, a talking mouse was all I needed for a good movie...
actually, as a 31 year old man, a talking mouse is still all I need.

The problem with revisiting movies you loved as a kid, you may have to deal with the very real possibility that you were a complete moron as a child and your tastes have refined. Sometimes the memories of your past aren't as good as what happened and unlike the family vacation to Mt. Rushmore, you can actually relive your memories of movies and old television shows thanks to home media. There have been times where I’ve revisited a movie and it wasn’t as good as I remembered but The Witches is just as fun as I recall.

"Now witches...WE DANCE!!!"

Portions of Angelica's performance were far LESS erotic.
Being older, I was able to have the fun I had watching this as a wee boy while simultaneously appreciating Angelica’s strangely erotic performance and the seamless transition of using puppet mice and live rats for Luke and Bruno. But the film has a bittersweet feel when you realized it was the last picture Jim Henson personally oversaw before his death and the world lost one immensely creative and imaginative man. However, thanks to projects like this, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and all the Muppet work (especially his voice for Kermit); Henson lives on ad infinitum with near God-like status.

Creepy dudes offering free chocolate wasn't bad enough but witches offering
free chocolate...

Mr. Bean deals with witches...I have a script
to write!
Even on paper, there’s no way this movie CAN’T work. Even eliminating Henson’s involvement in making some ridiculously convincing talking mice (enough drugs consumed, I’m sure I can convince some people they are REAL talking mice), you have a stellar performance from Angelica Huston, awesome make-up effects, a great story that does a tremendous job of bringing the original book from Roald Dahl to life and Rowan Atkinson is there to provide a few laughs along the way as the straight man hotel manager Mr. Stringer (Seriously, Atkinson is just amazing! He never fails to make me laugh). When all is said and done, The Witches held up to the memories I had of it…now let’s wait another decade or so to see if the memories I have of it now will hold up.

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