Roald Dahl’s The Witches is a 2020 dark fantasy comedy film directed by Robert Zemeckis, and written by Zemeckis, Kenya Barris, and Guillermo del Toro. It is based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Roald Dahl and is the second feature-length adaptation of the novel, following the 1990 film of the same name. The film stars Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, and Stanley Tucci.
The Witches was originally scheduled for a theatrical release by Warner Bros. Pictures, but was later pulled from the release calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film was later announced that it would be available to stream on HBO Max in the United States on October 22, 2020, with a theatrical release in select international markets beginning on October 28, 2020.
Set in 1960s Alabama, an orphaned young boy, Charlie Hansen, stumbles across a conference of witches while staying with his grandmother Agatha at a hotel, and gets transformed into a mouse by the Grand High Witch when he discovers her plan to turn all children into vermin. He and Agatha, with the help of two other children turned into mice, must foil the witches’ scheme and destroy the Grand High Witch.
- Anne Hathaway as Lilith / The Grand High Witch, a powerful witch and sorceress who is the leader of all witches in the world.
- Octavia Spencer as Agatha Hansen, a retired witch hunter and Charlie’s grandmother who is the long time old rival of the Grand High Witch.
- Stanley Tucci as Mr. Stringer, a hotel manager.
- Jahzir Kadeem Bruno as Charlie Hansen, a young boy who is turned into a mouse by the Grand High Witch.
- Kristin Chenoweth as the voice of Daisy, a girl who was turned into a mouse, after a year.
- Codie-Lei Eastick as Bruno Jenkins, an English boy who is turned into a mouse.
- Charles Edwards as Mr. Jenkins, the father of Bruno.
- Morgana Robinson as Mrs. Jenkins, the mother of Bruno.
- Josette Simon as Zelda, a witch.
- Eugenia Caruso as Consuella, a witch.
- Ana-Maria Maskell as Esmerelda, a witch.
- Orla O’Rourke as Saoirse, a witch.
- Penny Lisle as Lana, a witch.
- Simon Manyonda as Sous-Chef
In July 2019, it was announced that Zemeckis’s frequent collaborator, Alan Silvestri, would compose the film’s score.
The film is scheduled to debut on October 22, 2020, on HBO Max in the United States. It was previously scheduled to be released on October 9 then pushed to October 16, 2020, before being pulled entirely from the schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes collected 57 reviews and identified 51% of them as positive, with an average rating of 5.65/10. The website’s critics consensus reads: “The Witches misses a few spells, but Anne Hathaway’s game performance might be enough to bewitch fans of this Roald Dahl tale.” According to Metacritic, which sampled 20 critics and calculated a weighted average score of 47 out of 100, the film received “mixed or average reviews”.
In his two out of four star review, Richard Roeper from Chicago Sun-Times praised the special effects and the performances, but found the film to be “far too disturbing for young children and not edgy enough to captivate adults.”