I think it’s fair to say I grew up surrounded by the works of Roald Dahl, the major ones anyway. I devoured Matilda as a first-grader, and it didn’t take much prompting to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and its sequel), Danny the Champion of the World, and James and the Giant Peach. But one of my favorite books growing up was The Witches, a story that (if I remember correctly) positively terrified me the first time I read it, and small wonder. It was set in a world where child-eating witches were not only real but an ever-present danger. Quite exhilarating material for a six-year old.
All that being said, somehow, after all this time, I completely missed the fact that The Witches had long since been adapted to film, by Jim Henson no less! And last night I finally got to watch that film, and was completely blown away by how much fun it is! The story, in brief, follows a young boy, Luke, who stumbles across a plot by the Grand High Witch and all the witches of England to turn all of that country’s children into mice, right before being turned into a mouse himself along with his friend Bruno.
Watching this movie last night brought back a part of my childhood that I’d all but forgotten. Watching Anjelica Huston (who gives a brilliant performance) transform into the gruesome Grand High Witch sent shivers down my spine, as it was like seeing one of the book’s illustrations come to life. And the mice puppets are adorably cute. True, you can tell they’re puppets (it’s Jim Henson so that goes without saying), but that somehow doesn’t take away from the believability that Lucas and Bruno really have been turned into mice.
As much as I enjoyed watching this movie, there were several scenes that reminded me why it was a good idea I never found out about this film until I was grown. The mouse-transformation scenes are…disturbing, to say the least, especially when Bruno is changed into a mouse. Also, I’m fairly certain the reveal of what the Grand High Witch really looks like would have given five-year old me nightmares had I seen the film at that age. So while I’m inclined to kick myself for not seeing this film sooner, part of me doesn’t regret it that much.
The last thing I need to talk about is the ending of this film. On the one hand, the purist in me would prefer that film adaptations of books stay true to the ending. However, this is one of the few stories I would make an exception to, as I find the original ending (Luke stays a mouse and probably has 9 years to live) to be depressing, even as a child this part always got me down. So, while I understand why Dahl objected to the change, I actually prefer how the movie ends the story.
If you ever enjoyed Roald Dahl’s works, then you need to watch The Witches, I think you will love it. Let me know what you think of the film in the comments below and have a great day!
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