Based on Roald Dahl’s novel, this 2020 adaptation of The Witches is set in Alabama in the United States. The main character, Hero Boy (Jahzir Bruno), is eight years old when his parents are killed in a car crash. His grandmother (Octavia Spencer) takes him in and looks after him.
One day when Hero Boy and his grandmother are shopping, a strange woman scares him. When Hero Boy tells his grandmother, she explains that the woman was a witch. She tells him that witches wear wigs to cover their bald heads, gloves to cover their clawed hands, and shoes to hide their toeless feet. She also tells him that witches hate all children and want to get rid of them.
Grandma takes Hero Boy to a luxury resort to recover from his ordeal. Unfortunately, the resort is also hosting a convention of witches, gathering under the cover of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway) has devised a potion that transforms children into mice, which she demonstrates on a hapless boy called Bruno (Codie-Lee Eastick). Bruno changes into a mouse in front of Hero Boy’s eyes. Shocked, Hero Boy is also caught by the Grand High Witch and changed into a mouse.
Hero Boy, Bruno and pet mouse Daisy (voice of Kristen Chenoweth) must defeat the witches and foil their dastardly plan.
Supernatural horror; fantasy; witchcraft; death of parents
The Witches (2020) has some violence. For example:
- A witch wearing a stiletto heel crushes a cartoon image of a child.
- Bruno’s mother scolds him for being dirty. She grabs him by the ear and pulls him away.
- The Grand High Witch bashes her head into the rostrum. She throws the rostrum, smashing it into pieces. She rises into the air, cackling, while telling the witches her plan to destroy all children.
- A witch questions the Grand High Witch about the plan. The witch is instantly struck by a laser beam and disintegrates.
- The Grand High Witch starts screaming, thinking she can smell a child. She overturns the platform in a rage but Hero Boy (who has been watching) escapes.
- Bruno is given a potion. He starts shaking all over, purple smoke comes out of his ears and mouth, he rises into the air, his head seems to have disappeared, and he drops to the ground as a mouse. The witches all try to stomp on him, but he manages to escape.
- The Grand High Witch pulls Hero Boy out of his hiding place and gives him the potion. The same thing happens to him as to Bruno, and Hero Boy also turns into a mouse.
- The Grand High Witch tries to hit a mouse with a hammer but hits her own hand instead.
- The Grand High Witch’s hands get caught in a fan and she screams. Her hands are shown in bandages.
- A hotel cleaner chases the mice with a broom.
- The mice poison all the witches at a dinner. One by one, the witches explode. They fly up into the ceiling and transform into mangy mice. Chaos ensues, and people run and scream everywhere.
- Waiters try to hit the mice with brooms and knives.
- One of the mice lands on the hotel manager’s head. The mouse crawls down the manager’s front and bites his genitals. The manager screams.
- The Grand High Witch throws a bedhead at Grandma. She says she wants to reach into Grandma’s chest and pull her heart out.
- Hero Boy, as a mouse, traps the Grand High Witch’s foot in a mouse trap.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
The Witches (2020) shows some use of substances. For example:
- Potions are used to transform people into mice.
- Grandma occasionally has an alcoholic drink.
- Characters drink wine at dinner.
Nudity and sexual activity
The following products are displayed or used in The Witches (2020): Pepsi and Ritz crackers.
The Witches (2020) has some mild coarse language, including ‘Oh my God’, ‘crap’ and ‘What in God’s name?’
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Witches (2020) is a black comedy, but this new version is also more like a horror movie.
Although Roald Dahl’s novel was written for children, this movie is more targeted at teenagers and adults. We don’t recommend it for children under 13 years, and we do recommend parental guidance for children aged 13-15 years. This is for several reasons, including the appearance of the Grand High Witch, who’s very frightening and much scarier than previous versions. It’s also important to note that the movie portrays witches as characters with hand and foot differences, which could contribute to negative and unhelpful ideas about disability.
The main messages from this movie are that good overcomes evil and that teams are stronger than individuals.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include cooperation, courage, bravery and selflessness.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like the experiences of people with limb differences and how a movie like this might make them feel.