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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Encourages communication, courage, teamwork. Close relationship between grandson and grandmother is affirmed, as is importance of kids having trusted adults, period, because every kid deserves to be loved, listened to, cared for, no matter what. Also has a clear, overt good-versus-evil theme.
Positive Role Models
The children, particularly the main boy, are brave, willing to put themselves in danger to defeat the witches. Grandma isn't just loving and kind, she's courageous and defends the kids against the witches. On the downside, the witches themselves are scary and evil, and the way their hands are depicted contributes to the harmful idea that limb differences are unnatural and/or frightening.
Lead character and his grandmother are played by Black actors. Supporting and minor roles also cast various Black actors. Writers include well-known Mexican filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro and Black producer and TV showrunner Kenya Barris. Unfortunately, film demonizes disability by relying on limb differences to portray witches as evil: Villains like the Grand High Witch have hands and feet that mimic ectrodactyly, are bald, and experience wig rash.
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Violence & Scariness
An 8-year-old's parents die in a car accident (camera shows only the boy, who survived). The witches are depicted as creepy when they take off their disguises, unfortunately relying on limb differences to paint a menacing picture: "claws" for hands, no toes (or, in one case, a single toe with a big claw), arms that extend threateningly, and unnaturally wide, gash-like mouths with sharp teeth. They also have "wig rash" sores on their scalps and bleed black blood. Several scenes in which kids (and then kids-as-mice) are in peril. A witch turns a child into a chicken. Some of the special effects when the kids are turned into rats or chickens might be scary for younger children. Grand witch also announces her hope to get rid of all children in the world. She kills another witch for asking a question, turning her into ash. Viewers see two children turned into mice. Lots of witches are turned into vicious-looking rats and then killed or injured with brooms and feet.
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"Stupid," "brats," "disgusting," "poop," "crap," "jeez," etc.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Witches are shown drinking a green drink out of a wine glass.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Witches is director Robert Zemeckis' spooky, creepy adaptation of Roald Dahl's 1983 children's book, which was previously made into a movie in 1990. This version is set in 1960s Alabama; like the others, it chronicles how a boy (Jahzir Bruno) and his grandma (Octavia Spencer) encounter a coven of kid-hating witches who plan to transform the world's children into mice. It's a dark but comic fantasy with plenty of peril, and kids are indeed turned into rodents. The witches' appearance and demeanor are pretty scary: They have claws, no toes, sores on their scalps, and unnaturally wide, gash-like mouths (reminiscent of Venom's and the Joker's) with razor-sharp teeth. The way in which their limbs are depicted (especially their webbed hands) has drawn criticism from disability advocates for making limb differences seem unnatural and frightening. The head witch (Anne Hathaway) kills a fellow witch for insubordination and tries her hardest to exterminate the main characters. An early scene reveals that the boy's parents died in a car accident (the camera shows only the boy, who survived). The movie, which is considerably more diverse than other movies based on Dahl's work, encourages communication, courage, and teamwork and affirms the importance of trusted adults in kids' lives. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This campy, creepy, fun Dahl adaptation will entertain fans of the author's quirkily dark tales about kids in peril who get away from terrible adults (in this case, kid-hating demons). Director Robert Zemeckis still knows how to put together a slick, family-friendly adventure full of elaborate makeup and visual effects, and The Witches doesn't disappoint. It's perfect for a Halloween movie night. Parents will particularly enjoy seeing Hathaway reunite with her Devil Wears Prada co-star Stanley Tucci, who plays the hotel's rule-following manager, Mr. Stringer. They both look like they're having a grand time, especially Hathaway, who chews the scenery as the over-the-top Grand High Witch.
Spencer and Bruno have a lovely rapport as a grandma who knows a thing or two about witches and her kind and brave orphaned grandson. Bruno keeps up with the Oscar-winning actress, and he manages to keep his character's emotional range even in voice form (spoiler alert: He's turned into a mouse). The soundtrack is fantastic, featuring a mix of Motown hits and contemporary tracks, including The Four Tops' "Reach Out I'll Be There," Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing," and Samantha Jade's cover of "We Are Family." It's worth noting that although the movie is set in Jim Crow-era Alabama, it features a Black grandmother and grandson staying at a hotel that would surely have been segregated at the time. Fantasy movies have no reason not to be diverse, even when set in the past. With The Witches, Zemeckis has conjured old-school magic that should be a sweet, spooky treat for families.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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