The Witches | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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A minor but very enjoyable Nicolas Roeg fairy tale--adapted by Allan Scott from Roald Dahl's novel, and one of the last films on which Muppet master Jim Henson worked--about a very wicked Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston) in contemporary England with a plan to turn all that country's children into mice. She hatches this plot at a plush seaside resort, where she and her coven are posing as members of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and where the other main characters are staying, including a nine-year-old American orphan (Chicagoan Jasen Fisher)--one of the witch's first victims--and his Norwegian grandmother (Mai Zetterling). Forsaking the scattershot cutting of his usual work, Roe seems to regard this as a relatively impersonal project, but he and the actors (especially Huston) still seem to be having a great deal of fun with it. One of many clear advantages of this funny and scary fantasy-adventure over most Disney products is its live-action visual bravado, evident in both the stylization of the witches and the profusion of mouse-point-of-view shots. In short, this is loads of creepy fun (1989). (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, July 21, 4:00, and Sunday, July 22, 2:00, 443-3737)

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