The Witches Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Pros: Anne Hathaway as a witch; costumes and interiors; soundtrack from the 60s and music by composer Alan Silvestri. Cons: the story seems very absurd at times, probably due to the original book “The Witches”.

Fantasy genre
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Anne Hathaway (Miss Eva Ernst / High Witch of the World), Octavia Spencer (Grandmother), Stanley Tucci (Mr. Stringer), Jahzir Bruno (main character), Chris Rock (voice of the main character turned into a mouse), Josette Simon (Zelda) ), Charles Edwards (Mr. Jenkins), Morgana Robinson (Mrs. Jenkins), etc.
Warner Bros. Studios Pictures, ImageMovers, Double Dare You (DDY)
Year of release 2020
IMDb website

The plot of the story about witches who turn children into mice appeared thanks to the writer Roald Dahl (he is also the author of the fairy tale “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”). The book became a classic of British children’s literature, and in the 1990s, it was based on a family film with Anjelica Huston, who played the mistress of witches of the whole world (the same actress soon became the best screen embodiment of Morticia Addams from The Addams Family). In those days, for the film, make-up artists worked for six hours to transform Houston into a hunchbacked bald witch, and puppeteers controlled the toy mice in the frame.

In 2008, rumors surfaced that Guillermo del Toro was interested in his own stop-motion adaptation of the book. After this, there was no news from the director; ten years later it turned out that the idea for the new “Witches” was still in force, but the plans for it had changed somewhat. Firstly, Guillermo del Toro moved into the role of producer, joining forces with Alfonso Cuaron, and personally had a hand in creating the script. Secondly, Robert Zemeckis was appointed director of the project, who used actors and computer graphics instead of puppets.


By the way, Robert Zemeckis also participated in writing the script, adhering to the ending that Roald Dahl wrote. However, there are a few notable adjustments in his remake. Thus, the new film takes place in the South of the United States, and the main characters are black Americans (in the original, the events took place in England and Norway).

So, Zemeckis’s “The Witches” takes viewers back to 1968. The main character loses his parents in a car accident and goes to live with his grandmother (Octavia Spencer). She encourages her grandson in every possible way, returning the boy’s interest in everyday trifles. When life begins to get better, the hero meets a suspicious woman in closed clothes who persistently offers the child candy. After the incident, the grandmother rather unexpectedly reveals herself to be an expert in witchcraft and asks her grandson to beware of witches. It turns out that witches not only live next to people, but also carefully disguise their unsightly appearance. And, worst of all, they hate children, dreaming of turning them into animals. This is exactly what the Supreme Witch of the World (Anne Hathaway) is going to do, having organized a large gathering of evil spirits in a respectable hotel.


The filmmakers do not openly raise the issue of race relations of that period (the film is still aimed at a child audience), but only hint about it through the mouth of the heroine Octavia Spencer, who voices the adapted background of the story from the screenwriters. Spencer, by the way, successfully takes on the role of a caring grandmother who wins over her grandson with conversations and music records. Thanks to her efforts, the song “Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops sounds very appropriately in the background (the composition can also be heard in the trailer), which immerses the viewer in the atmosphere of the 60s.

Then the film gains witchcraft momentum, paying attention to the description of the ugly appearance of witches and how they manage to hide their essence from this world. The transformation is emphasized by the film’s costume designers, who choose rather bright and frilly outfits for Anne Hathaway and her retinue. Hathaway struts around in pointy shoes and scratches his head under a big wig as he delivers angry speeches. We cannot hear all the beauty of her efforts because of the dubbing; in the original, the actress speaks with an accent, drawing out English words. Anne Hathaway’s performance is complemented by CGI, which gives the High Witch of the World an ear-to-ear smile, reminiscent of a creepy version of the Cheshire Cat.


Using computer graphics, mice also appear and actively participate in the events of the film. Naturally, for young viewers they will be more interesting than the toy rodents from the old film. CGI has also replaced most of the sets, giving the new film a glimpse of the hotel’s ornate interiors.

Everything taken together sometimes cannot drown out a certain absurdity of the plot, even taking into account the fact that a very magical story is unfolding before us. Perhaps it’s just in the original book, where a bunch of witches committed outrages on children, and one grandmother had heard a lot about their machinations. However, this incongruity can be made magical in moments thanks to the music of composer Alan Silvestri (who wrote the soundtrack for the films Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, The Avengers).

As weird as the new movie, The Witches, is, it’s the most entertaining thing to see in theaters yet. In the USA, by the way, the film appeared on HBO Max at the end of October, but we have the opportunity to see it on big screens.


Despite some awkward plot lines, the film is watchable thanks to the majestic music and computer effects.

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