Starring: Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, Chris Rock, Jahzir Bruno, Kristin Chenoweth, Codie-Lei Eastick
OUR RATING: ★★½
HBO Max fantasy comedy directed and co-written by Robert Zemeckis. In this reimagining of Roald Dahl’s classic story, we follow a young orphaned boy (Jahzir Bruno) who, in late 1967, goes to live with his loving Grandmother (Octavia Spencer) in rural Alabama. As the boy and his grandmother encounter some deceptively glamorous but thoroughly diabolical witches, she takes the boy away to an opulent seaside resort. However, they arrive at precisely the same time that the world’s Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway) has gathered her fellow witches from around the globe, undercover, to carry out her nefarious plans.
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Older Hero: “A note about witches.” See, here’s the thing about them. They’re real! Witches are as real as a rock in your shoe. That’s the first thing you need to know.
Older Hero: The second thing you need to know, they’re here! And they live amongst us, side by side, with humans. In every big city, in every small town. For all you know, a witch might be living right next door to you right now. They everywhere!
Older Hero: And here’s the most important thing. The most important thing. Witches hate children! A witch spends all her time thinking up ways to destroy children. That’s all she thinks about. “How will I squish this horrible child?”
Older Hero: A witch gets the same pleasure from squishing a child as you get from eating a bowl of ice cream covered in butterscotch syrup, with whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a cherry on top.
Older Hero: My story begins during the last month of 1968. Believe it or not, I was once a young boy.
[after the death of his parents] Grandma: Grandma’s here. You’re going to be alright.
Older Hero: Grandma was my mama’s mama. A tough lady with a big heart. The kind that wouldn’t hesitate to give a spanking if you deserve it, or a big old hug if you needed it.
Grandma: [to her grandson] What, you think I’m supposed to feel sorry for you? Well, I don’t. Do I feel bad? Yeah. But not sorry. Sometimes, whatever the good Lord needs to teach us comes in ways we don’t see. But it doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to learn something.
Grandma: [referring to the boy’s mother] I’d do anything for her to be here right now. But the Man Above had another plan for her. And whether it seems fair to me or not, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes life isn’t fair. It’s a hard lesson for folks to learn, and most people don’t have to learn it this young. But you do. You hear me?
Grandma: Have you come up with a name for your mouse yet? Hero Boy: Uh-huh. Grandma: Well, tell me. Don’t be keeping me in suspense. Hero Boy: Aisy. Grandma: Lazy? Well, that mouse is full of nothing but energy. She runs all the time in that wheel Hero Boy: Not Lazy. Daisy. Grandma: Daisy. Oh. I like it. That’s a perfect name for her.
Older Hero: [referring to Grandma] And somehow, she did it. Little by little, with a tug here, and a pull there, she brought me out of my sadness.
Grandma: [referring to the lettuce] You call these fresh? Raymond: But we just got them in. Grandma: When? Last year?
Older Hero: Grandma knew how to fix all kinds of ailments. She learned from her grandma how to use herbs, and potions, and strange incantations to make sick people good as new. Here in Alabama, where she grew up, Grandma was known as a healer.
Grandma: [referring to the witch] And when she talked, did her voice sound ugly and scratchy like an outhouse door swinging on a rusty hinge?
Grandma: That lady you saw in the grocery store was no lady. What you saw was a witch. Hero Boy: A witch? Grandma: That’s right. A no-good, rotten, low-down, sneaky, sneaky witch.
Grandma: Listen, child. Witches ain’t nothing to joke about. Now, I’ve known children who no longer exist as children on this earth. They were turned, transformed, taken by witches.
[referring to what a witch did to her young friend] Grandma: Later that night, when I saw Alice alive, I was as happy as a mouse in a bucket of cheese. But the very next morning, all that happiness went away, because it happened. She started turning. Alice was chicken-afied. Chicken-alified.
Grandma: Oh, my, Lord in Heaven. What am I thinking? I just told you we saw a witch today. A witch in the grocery store. And what am I doing? Sitting here like I’m blind in one eye and can’t see out the other, wasting precious time lollygagging.
Older Hero: Now, my mom always said Grandma was sort of a country-type healer. But now I was starting to think she might be a voodoo priestess.
Hero Boy: How do you know we’ll be safe there? Grandma: Because, child, ain’t nothing but rich white folks at the Grand Orleans Imperial Island Hotel. And witches only prey on the poor, the overlooked, the kids they think nobody’s going to make a fuss about if they go missing.
Hero Boy: Grandma, are there witches in every city? Grandma: Every city, every state, every country. And there’s a secret society of witches in every country called a coven. That’s just like a Rotary Club but for witches. They all get together in one place and gossip about who they put spells on, or trade potion secrets, and whatnot. But most important, they receive orders from the Grand High Witch.
Grandma: The Grand High Witch. She’s the ruler of them all. All-powerful, pure evil, and without a stitch of mercy. Yeah. Legend has it, she was hatched on the frozen tundra of Norway.
Hero Boy: Grandma, if we’re on the fourth floor, why is it number 7-6-6? Grandma: Because the man who built this hotel was a numerologist. He believed numbers have meaning. I know a little something about numbers. Seven and six together means a test is coming. Two sixes mean abundance. So it look like a big test might be coming.
Grand High Witch: What would you do if there were mice running all around in this hotel? Mr. Stringer: Well, I can assure you, madam, there would never be any mice. Grand High Witch: But if there were? Hypothetically? Mr. Stringer: Oh, hypothetically. Yes, I suppose, well, I would call the exterminator. Grand High Witch: Exactly! You see, girls? He would call the exterminator! Just like any normal human with his head screwed on right, he would exterminate those brats! Mr. Stringer: Uh, rats. We would exterminate the rats.
Grandma: Evil. There’s no other way to describe them. Pure, unvarnished evil. That’s what witches are.
Hero Boy: Grandma, how can you tell a real witch from a normal lady? Grandma: Well, first of all, witches aren’t really women at all. They’re demons in human shape. That’s why if you look closely at a witch, you’ll notice the corners of her mouth is elongated, stretching almost up to her ears, and that’s usually hidden with pancake makeup. And a real witch always wears gloves. Always. Because a real witch doesn’t have hands. She’s got claws.
Grandma: And they don’t have toes. Ooh. Their ugly feet look like their toes got chopped off with an axe. And all witches are bald. As bald as a boiled egg. So, they wear wigs. And it gives them nasty sores. “Wig rash”, the witches call it. Mmm! And it makes them crazy.
Grandma: Nostrils. Nose-holes. Witches have larger nose-holes than normal people. When they need to sniff out a child, those nose-holes can grow out as big as eight inches in diameter. But, mind you, children smell horrible to witches. Hero Boy: Even if the kid just had a bath? Grandma: That makes it worse. A freshly clean kid smells like dog poop to a witch. Hero Boy: Dog poop? Grandma: That’s right. And the cleaner the kid, the the poopier he smells to a witch. Hero Boy: Maybe I should stop taking baths. Grandma: Child, don’t test me.
Grand High Witch: Okay, you trussed-up succubines, you may remove your gloves. You may remove your shoes. And you may remove your wigs! [as he’s watching them in hiding] Hero Boy: They’re all witches.
Older Hero: My blood ran cold as I started to get real scared. Here I was, trapped in a room with a bunch of bald-headed witches! And the mean one, the bald-head honcho, who was standing right above me, the one who was giving all the orders, as soon as I got a good look at her, I knew instantly who she had to be.
Grand High Witch: Witches. You are a heap of good-for-nothing worms! This morning, I’m having my breakfast, and I’m looking out the window, at the beach, and what am I seeing? Hm? What am I seeing? I’m seeing dozens, I’m seeing hundreds, I’m seeing hundreds of repulsive little brats playing in the sand, and it’s putting me right off my food!
Grand High Witch: Here are my orders. I want every child in the world rubbed out! Squashed, squirted, and frittered! Witch: Your Excellency, do you have a plan? How can we possibly wipe out every child? [the Grand High Witch uses her power to destroy the witch] Grand High Witch: That was actually a good question. Insubordinate, but a good question.
Grand High Witch: Of course I have a plan. I want each of you to return to your pathetic little town, and open a candy store. And in this store you will sell only the highest quality, tastiest candy.
Grand High Witch: And we use Formula Number 86 Delayed Action Mouse Maker! One drop of Mouse Maker in a piece of candy will transform a dirty little child into a mouse in one hour! Two drops will transform the disgusting little brat in thirty minutes. And three drops is instantaneous. An instant mouse!
Grand High Witch: Darling boy. I have your chocolate for you. Bruno Jenkins: You promised me six bars of chocolate. I only see one in your hand. Grand High Witch: You see, ladies, not only is he fat and stupid but greedy too.
Hero Boy: They turned Bruno into a mouse and now they’re trying to squish him. Daisy: I’ll fetch him. Hero Boy: Did you just talk?
Bruno Jenkins: Gosh! You’re a giant. Why are you so big? Hero Boy: I’m not big. You’re little. I’m normal. Bruno Jenkins: How can I be little? Daisy: Because you’re a mouse. Hero Boy: A witch put a spell on you. Bruno Jenkins: Witch? What witch?
Grand High Witch: Okay. That’s how you want to play, we’ll play the Shakespeare way.
Bruno Jenkins: What happened to us? Why are we mouses? Daisy, Hero Boy: “Mice”! Bruno Jenkins: Whatever.
Hero Boy: There’s a convention of witches here in the hotel, and they have an evil potion. Daisy: They put it in your chocolate. Bruno Jenkins: My chocolate? Crikey! Daisy: They always spike the chocolate. It’s standard evil witch procedure. Hero Boy: Wait. You were a kid too? Daisy: A girl. Do I look like a baby goat to you?
Bruno Jenkins: What are we going to do? I don’t want to be a mouse. I like being a portly little kid. Daisy: “Child”. Bruno Jenkins: Whatever!
[after he’s been turned into a mouse] Hero Boy: Grandma, it’s me, your grandson. Grandma: My grandson. Is that you, boy? Hero Boy: Yes, Grandma. It’s me.
Grandma: Oh, Lord, not the Grand High Witch. Hero Boy: Yes. She mouse-afied me. And the whole hotel is full of witches. They’re having a witch convention or something. Grandma: You been through so much, you don’t need this. Grandma’s so, so sorry.
Grandma: I can’t believe this happened to you. Hero Boy: Believe me, things could be a lot worse. Bruno Jenkins: They could?
Hero Boy: Oh, Grandma, by the way, this is my friend, Bruno Jenkins. He’s now a mouse too, but he used to be a chubby little English kid. Bruno Jenkins: You could’ve just stopped at, “This is my friend, Bruno.”
Hero Boy: Oh, and Daisy used to be a kid, a girl too. Grandma: Why didn’t you say something before, darling? Daisy: Because it can be very dangerous for a mouse to talk. Most people don’t understand and they get scared.
Daisy: [referring to the witch that turned her] Anyway, she offered me a chocolate bar, and before I knew it, poof! I was transformed then, faster than a hot knife cuts through butter, a panhandler scoops me up and sells me to a pet store so he could buy food.
Hero Boy: The Grand High Witch has a room full of potion. And she’s going to use it to turn every kid in the world into a mouse. We have to help them.
Hotel Maintenance: I’m sorry to bother you, ma’am, but we got a report of a possible rodent infestation. Grandma: Rodent infestation? In a hotel this expensive? That’s crazier than a hog on slaughter day.
Grandma: If we could just get our hands on some of that potion, I might be able to reverse-engineer it. Make it a potion that turns mice into children. I always travel with my anti-hex herbs and salts. But whoever knows where that wicked, evil witch is. Daisy: We do. She’s in room 666.
Grandma: Good Lord! That evil sorceress is living right beneath us?
Grandma: I know you’re likely scared, baby. Hero Boy: I’m not scared, Grandma. I don’t know why, but ever since I was turned into a small mouse, little things don’t scare me anymore.
Grand High Witch: I can’t believe they won’t let my precious into the dining room. This fleabag, roach-trap hotel discriminates against everything. Money. Money, money, money. Oh, Hades, why, in this disgusting human world, do you need money for everything?
Mr. Stringer: Madam, I procured this for you today. I thought you might like it. It’s a kitty carrier. And I thought you could put your feline friend in there and you can transport him all over the hotel, including the dining room. Thought you might like that. Grand High Witch: Well, let me tell you something, Mister Cat-Cage-Procurer. I will never, ever allow my precious puss to be… [Hades promptly goes into the cat cage] Mr. Stringer: Well, look at that. He likes it in there.
Grand High Witch: Well, my precious, since you enjoy being in that cage so much, you can stay in it! Traitor!
Grandma: This witch’s power is far greater than my little home remedies. Daisy: Evil power. Grandma: And strong. Much stronger than me.
Hero Boy: It’s not your fault, Grandma. Sometimes things just happen. Grandma: Yeah, they do. Hero Boy: I actually don’t mind being a mouse. I get to hang out with my new friends all day, don’t have to go to school anymore, and I don’t have to learn how to drive, which means I’ll never get into an accident.
Hero Boy: Grandma, will you still take care of me? Even if I stay a mouse? Grandma: Of course I will, darling. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you. And I always will.
Bruno Jenkins: My mother thinks I’m clumsy. And my father complains that I’m always hungry. Grandma: Well, maybe this will help them love you for who you are, not for who you ain’t. Daisy: You’re fortunate to have parents, Bruno. Some of us don’t. Hero Boy: But we’re going to be okay. We have Grandma. And she’ll always be our family. Daisy: And for that, we are very blessed.
Mr. Jenkins: What in God’s name is wrong with you? Get that filthy rodent out of here! Grandma: No, no, no, no. This is Bruno. Bruno, say something to them. Mr. Jenkins: “Say something?” Are you insane? Get away from us before I call the manager. Grandma: Quit all this hollering. This is your son, Bruno!
Mr. Stringer: You wouldn’t happen to be carrying around a mouse on your person, now, would you? Grandma: A mouse? Mr. Stringer: Mm-hmm. Grandma: Why on earth would I be carrying around a mouse?
Grandma: [to Stringer] I’ll tell you this. For what this hotel is costing me, I better not see a single mouse. Not even a tiny, cute one.
[as the witches are turning into rats] Grandma: Mm-hmm! That’s some serious ratification.
Mr. Stringer: Somebody call the exterminator!
Grand High Witch: You think you’re so clever, breaking into my room with a stolen key? But everyone knows they keep a spare key at the front desk. Grandma: We’ll never let you get away with your filthy, evil plot. Grand High Witch: Oh, no? Who’s going to stop me? A feeble, stupid, sick woman like you?
Grand High Witch: Let me see. I think I will reach into your chest, and rip out your withered, shriveled heart, and squeeze it until it bursts! Grandma: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All your butt-ugly witch-talk don’t scare me one bit. Grand High Witch: It should, considering the last thing you will ever see is my snickering face.
Grandma: I believe, with every fiber of my being, that in the end, love will always triumph over hatred and evil. Grand High Witch: Is that so? Grandma: You may have turned Alice and my grandson, but I will make sure you never turn another child. So help me, God.
[after they turn the Grand High Witch into a rat and trap her in a glass jar] Grandma: I’m done listening to your trash talk. Grand High Witch: What is this? You fool. Let me out. Let me out!
[referring to the Grand High Witch’s money] Grandma: That is a lot of bacon. Bruno Jenkins: Lettuce. Daisy: Dough. Bruno Jenkins: Hey, you’re making me terribly hungry.
Hero Boy: With that list, and that money, and all this potion, we could turn every witch in the world into rats. Grandma: Excellent!
Grand High Witch: I’ll cut off your tails with rusty scissors. I’ll clip your ears with toenail clippers. I’ll poke out your beady eyes. I’ll get you for this!
Grand High Witch: Stay back, you stupid, precious. No! Hades. Hades, precious, remember who feeds you. No, don’t think about food! [just then Hades attacks her]
Older Hero: The next morning, we were feeling joyful and triumphant. As a matter of fact, Grandma was so happy, she was spreading her joy to the entire hotel staff. [Grandma hands out Grand High Witch’s money]
Older Hero: Bruno tried to explain the situation to his mom. Bruno Jenkins: Hello, Mother. I’m now a mouse. Mrs. Jenkins: [screams] It’s a mouse! Older Hero: But it turned out Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins weren’t really mouse people. So we decided it would be best if Bruno came to stay with me, Grandma, and Daisy.
Grandma: Life changes all of us. I mean, look at me. I’m getting on up in the years, but I still feel like a girl. Hero Boy: And I still feel like a boy. Grandma: See? You get it. Never give up what you are inside. When I look at you, I don’t see whiskers and a pink nose. I just see your eyes. Bright and beautiful.
Hero Boy: Grandma, how long does a mouse live? Grandma: Oh, an ordinary mouse only lives about three years. But you’re no ordinary mouse. You’re a mouse-person, and a mouse-person will almost certainly live three times longer than an ordinary mouse. Maybe even longer. Hero Boy: That’s great news. I couldn’t stand being looked after by anybody else. I’ll be a very old mouse, and you’ll be a very old grandmother, and we’ll both die together. Grandma: With a little luck, darling. But no one knows how long their time is on this earth. Only God knows that answer. And that is the natural order of things.
Older Hero: Daisy, Bruno, and I loved living with Grandma. We were one big, happy family.
Older Hero: So here we are, ready to carry on the fight. Children: Carry on the fight! Older Hero: Over the years, we have turned and mouse-afied every damnable witch in these United States. So we are gathered here to take our battle to the entire world.
Grandma: So, you ready for this mission, old-timer? Older Hero: Grandma, I’ve never been more ready.
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