When I was a kid, my guitarist friend Dave had to leave his “heavy metal” albums at my house. His Christian mother wouldn’t let him have Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath records in their home. It soon became all rock bands, and I was flooded with stuff by The Who, Blue Oyster Cult, Lynyryd Skynyrd, and more. It vastly improved my record collection.
I thought about his mom with the release of this movie, since there are some supernatural things they dabble in. I haven’t heard of any religious groups or churches protesting all these Twilight movies, or the zombie love story last week, and now this teenage witches love story; but Hollywood, let’s give these pictures a rest for awhile.
I understand this is adapted from a young adult novel, and with the success of the other movies in this genre, they’ll probably continue. This is supposed to be a trilogy based on the Caster Chronicles series (which has nothing to do with those groupies in the ‘60s). I’m guessing they won’t decide if there will be more until they see the box office numbers come in for this (I’m guessing they’ll be huge).
It takes place in Gatlin, South Carolina. The accent and narration by Ethan is funny and entertaining enough. The kid is an intellectual, and prefers reading Kurt Vonnegut and Charles Bukowski instead of the Bible. Most of the town would prefer it were the other way around.
A new Goth girl arrives (Alice Englert) and Ethan begins to like her. Rumors swirl that she’s a witch, but…he never sees her zapping zits from her face with a magic wand or anything, so he pursues her. The courtship is moved along not from a broom she’s riding, but a car that breaks down in the rain. He offers her a ride and the sparks fly.
I would’ve stopped courting her once I met her uncle, the always enjoyable Jeremy Irons. Now, it wasn’t until I realized one of the characters was played by Emma Thompson that I thought – this movie has a lot of Oscar winners involved in it. And I haven’t even gotten to the maid and librarian, played by Viola Davis. It’s a shame she’s not much more than an expository character.
Writer/director Richard LaGravenese wrote The Fisher King over 20 years ago, and he’s done a few other big pictures – The Horse Whisperer, The Legend of Bagger Vance – as well as some garbage like Monster-in-Law, P.S. I Love You, and a movie I was on the fence with – Water for Elephants.
The witch has a 16th birthday coming up, and the concern isn’t what Ethan will get her (you know how teen girls get if you buy the wrong gift). It’s the fact that at that point, she finds out if she’s cursed to be a bad witch or a good witch. Bad witches seem to run in her family, as Uncle Irons is one of ‘em!
The sets are beautifully designed and fun to look at. The Ravenwood Manor (great name) where the witch resides is a Spanish style antebellum place, with lots of trees and covered in moss. Yet inside it has a completely different, black-and-white modern look.
There’s a scene where Ethan is walking around the place, and ends up back where he started in a weird time-warp thing. A tip of the witches hat to cinematographer Philippe Rousselot for creating some nice moments (he’s worked on a handful of Tim Burton pictures, as well as Sherlock Holmes and A River Runs Through It, to name a few).
I thought the first half of this movie was kind of fun, but the second have was rather boring and not all that original. It just over two hours, it’s no wonder I felt bored.
Of course, being in my 40s, I’m not the target demographic for this.
I’m guessing teens will give it 4 out of 5 stars.
I’m giving it 2 out of 5.