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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Witches' Ball is a family-friendly movie that claims to be based on the book The Witches Ball by David Steinberg. The book, though, is a short board book that doesn't bear much of a resemblance to the film, aside from there being a big, magical party happening. A Witches' Ball clearly takes more of its inspiration from the early Harry Potter films, as it features a young girl learning to become a witch in a school for magical kids. Just as in Potter lore, there is an ongoing rivalry between those who come from "mixed-blood" lineage (meaning one human parent) and those who are "royals" (a purely magical family). This leads to some snotty behavior from Beatrix's classmates, who bully her, though they stop short of physical violence. Aside from a dumb ongoing toilet joke, the humor and language is all very mild, and there's no real violence or scariness to speak of, making it a good choice for family viewing with younger kids.
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What's the story?
A WITCHES' BALL is the tale of Beatrix, a sweet-natured young witch-in-training who has just been named valedictorian at her magic school, despite coming from a half-magical family (her mom is a human, though she's studying to "convert"). Due to some meddling from a jealous "purebred" classmate, her status is put in jeopardy, and she must solve three magical riddles before the night of the annual Witches' Ball: an event that doubles as her school's culmination ceremony, where she is set to make her transition into a full-fledged witch. With the help of her family and her talking pet rat, Muggs (voiced, inexplicably, by Joey Fatone), she tries to set things right before it's too late.
Is it any good?
This is a well-meaning and whimsical film that makes a fine choice for younger viewers who may find the Harry Potter films too intense or scary. That said, the production values are pretty low -- the CGI isn't amazing, and a lot of the costumes and sets look like the stuff that goes on sale the day after Halloween. Newcomer actress Morgan Neundorf has a sweet screen presence, but others are a bit stiff. Viewers would do well not to think too hard about certain plot points, like the way Beatrix's classmates are completely dazzled by a student who performs a spell that makes animals talk, when Beatrix herself carries around a fully verbal pet rat nobody blinks an eye at. Older kids may find A Witches' Ball too predictable, but younger kids are likely to enjoy the sparkle and spectacle -- and the overall themes of self-reliance and honesty are commendable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the decisions Beatrix makes in A Witches' Ball about using "dark magic" when trying to solve the three riddles that will help her cement her status as class valedictorian. Did the choices she made make things easier or harder on her? Do you agree with her decision? How did the path she took show perseverance? Why is it an important character strength?
The world Beatrix and her family live in seems very similar to the world of Harry Potter. In what ways are the stories alike? How do Beatrix and Harry compare as characters? Do you think they would get along?
Beatrix's classmate Jasmine is mean to her on several occasions. What do you think is driving the way Jasmine behaves? Is she really a bad person, or just a victim of circumstance?
- In theaters: May 6, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: September 26, 2017
- Cast: Morgan Neundorf, Joey Fatone, Karen Slater
- Director: Justin G. Dyck
- Studio: Brain Power Studio Rights
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild rude humor
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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