The Witches (Rated PG)

This splendid adventure-fantasy from 1990 was adapted from Roald Dahl's book and directed by maverick British filmmaker Nicolas Roeg, who turned out to be a perfect (if seemingly unlikely) interpreter of Dahl's fiendishly clever tale of witchcraft in contemporary England.

Scary, funny, and wildly entertaining, it's all about a young boy named Luke (Jasen Fisher) whose parents have died in a tragic accident, and whose grandmother (Mai Zetterling) takes him to a posh hotel in England, where a secret coven of witches is holding its annual convention. The Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston, in a scene-stealing performance) has decreed that all children in England be turned into mice, and Luke and his pal Bruno (Charles Potter) are the first victims on the list.

That's when the movie magicians from Jim Henson's creature shop have their work cut out for them, turning Luke and Bruno into clever little rodents and The Witches into a dazzling display of imaginative special effects, using a seamless combination of real mice and superb animatronic puppets. Director Roeg doesn't compromise the sinister edge of Dahl's story, but comedy gets equal time from the brilliant cast including Brenda Blethyn (from Secrets and Lies and Little Voice), Rowan Atkinson (of Black Adder and Mr. Bean fame), and Jane Horrocks (Little Voice) as the Grand High Witch's beleaguered assistant.

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