The Witches of Eastwick

  • Review Date: August 24, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Release Year: 1987
  • Running Time: 118 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Satan vs. BFF feminism in grownup fantasy-comedy.
  • Review Date: August 24, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Release Year: 1987
  • Running Time: 118 minutes

Age(i)

2
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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Ethical good-vs.-evil, temptation-vs.-virtue, God vs. Satan message is transformed into a slapstick-tinged battle of the sexes, and the implications are best not examined very deeply. Though Eastwick has an active church, it seems to have no presence or role when the devil comes. The only character who does recognize Daryl Van Horne's diabolical nature and tries to fight him is depicted unsympathetically, as a mentally ill, prudish hysteric who just makes her husband (and everyone else) miserable. Ultimately the story is about glammed-up single mothers fearlessly raising their
boys communally in an environment where men are neither needed nor welcome.

Positive role models

In the John Updike book the title characters really are a practicing witch coven, performing pagan rituals. Here they're not; they just steal a few of Satan's tricks to use against him. Each woman ends up easily charmed/seduced, and they don't argue with extramarital sex. The devil, for most of the movie, comes across more like a lecherous and likeable wizard with a possessive streak. Except for a speech accusing God of making frequent mistakes he doesn't seem to have an evil or unholy agenda, besides maintaining a harem of pretty women for companionship, sex, and recreation.

Violence

Supernatural "violence" includes a character hit briefly with a rapid-aging hoodoo, a whirlwind that assaults Daryl, and stabs of pain resulting from pins being stuck into a voodoo-type doll. Severe vomiting induced by magic. One character falls down a flight of steps; another gets a minor cut from a broken bass-violin string. An out-of-control car wrecks. Rather confusing hints that a murder-suicide has taken place.

Sex

Lots of talk about sex, penis size and shapes, being "horny," and the f-word in its literal meaning. No action shown, although it's obvious that intercourse has taken place -- possibly with three women at once -- and pregnancy results. Actresses wear sexy clothing. The only nudity comes from the obese tribal-Venus figurines that a character makes.

Language

"F---k," "s--t," "bitch," "schlong," "dick."

Consumerism

Some household product labels (Ritz crackers, etc.). A spinoff TV series came along 20 years later. A book of the same title exists too, of course.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social and recreational drinking at home.

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.

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Kids say

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?

QUALITY
 

Sorcery elements in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK may attract teens, but this is a more or less grownup 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 that goes 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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 12, 1987
DVD release date:August 20, 1997
Cast:Cher, Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon
Director:George Miller
Studio:Warner Home Video
Genre:Fantasy
Run time:118 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:Restricted

This review of The Witches of Eastwick was written by

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Kid, 10 years old May 13, 2010
AGE
9
QUALITY
 
What other families should know
Too much swearing

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