A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's much sex talk, including frank discussions of what penis sizes/shapes women prefer. No sex is actually shown, despite female characters dressing in alluring clothes and obviously participating in a bedroom foursome with Daryl Van Horne. Some religious households may be offended by the "witchcraft" (present in the title more than anywhere else), likeability of the devil, or the insignificance of the neighborhood church. Horrific elements -- mostly played for laughs -- include gross vomiting and Daryl mutating into a monstrous being at the end, potentially scary for little ones, who shouldn't be watching in the first place thanks to frequent swearing (the f-word, above all). There are idealized scenes of romantic, recreational drinking. Teens assigned to read the John Updike novel for school should know that the movie is no substitute; it doesn't share the same themes, tone, or even time period.
What's the story?
In the small New England community of Eastwick, widowed sculptress Alexandra (Cher), divorced reporter Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer), and divorced music teacher Jane (Susan Sarandon) are lifelong friends with a strong sorta-psychic bond; when they all want something together, it happens (that's really about it for the "witch" part). Bored by their routines, they yearn for an exciting new man in their lives. Into town drives Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson), a mysterious, lusty, charismatic millionaire who buys Eastwick's most historic home and turns it into his adult playpen. Van Horne woos and seduces each of the three women in turn, making them a personal harem (the ladies get over their initial jealousy), and revealing along the way that he has seemingly magical powers. When a neighbor who disapproves of Van Horne is struck down by a curse, Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie have second thoughts about their temperamental new boyfriend.
Is it any good?
Sorcery elements in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK may attract teens, but this is a more or less grown-up fairy tale, heavy on the pillow talk and the dating/mating/relating satire. At least until a climactic firestorm of special effects and sloppy storytelling starts going on a bit too long and indicates that the filmmakers didn't buy into brainy writer John Updike's uncinematic novel for the philosophy bits.
This is a slickly made, big-budget frolic, ostensibly about the innate and untapped power of women, unleashed (to his eventual regret) by the most evil man in the universe, the original Serpent from Eden. Still, the cast is wonderful, and Jack Nicholson's jolly devil is
a pretty likeably guy for most of the movie, most amusing and sympathetic when he claims he just wants a little love and gratitude from the women he helps. That this is based on a book by a guy, with a script by a guy, directed by a guy, attempting to make a statement about emancipated females, is apparent after a while.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way the film portrays the devil as a rascally but friendly and fun-loving character, who claims he just wants love and a little respect from the "ladies." How does Daryl Van Horne compare to other pop culture and folklore images of Satan?
You might get older kids to read and discuss the book and how it differs wildly from the movie, and introduce them to the dense literary fiction of novelist John Updike (who, right before he died, issued a sequel, The Widows of Eastwick).
Research the history of "actual" witchcraft and witch-hunts (one suggested-reading book: Wayward Puritans, by Kai T. Erickson). Is Daryl historically correct when he says that anti-witch hysterias were schemes invented by the male-dominated medical profession in medieval times to put midwives out of business?
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