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Blu-ray Review: Teen Witch

THE FILM  3.5/5

“A witch? Me?”

Fall Under Her Spell! Romance is the most powerful spell of all…or so one teenager learns in this fun teen fantasy starring Robyn Lively, Zelda Rubinstein, Dan Gauthier, and Dick Sargent. Filled with sweet-natured comedy and supernatural appeal, Teen Witch will work its magic on you! Louise (Lively) is a shy misfit with a huge crush on – and no chance of dating – Brad (Gauthier), the hunky star of the high school football team. And when Louise discovers on her 16th birthday that she’s descended from Salem witches, she uses her newfound powers to become the most popular girl on campus! But when sparks fly between her and Brad, how can she be sure it’s true love and that he’s not simply spellbound?

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During my virginal viewing of Teen Witch, it was inevitable that my mind be blown. As someone who adores cinematic misfires – films being the equivalent of “ideas that seemed good at the time” – the triumphant Teen Witch offered much entertainment. The plot – so ludicrous. The hair – so big. The fashions – so ‘80s. The random dance and rap sequences – so inexplicably present. All of Teen Witch plays like a dream. At no point does it feel like it takes place in a real reality, and even for a movie reality it seems to be making it up as it goes.

Is it a musical?

No, not really.

Then why do people randomly break into song and, apparently, use musical interludes to solve conflicts using the hip-hop masterpiece “Top That”? (Speaking of, what’s particularly amazing about the “Top That” rap sequence is that it’s not one of those musical moments where the entire cast break into song. Rather, a handful of teenage boys are just out in the street randomly rapping and dancing with each other, and our femmes encounter this with a detectible look of apprehension. It’s kind of amazing — especially when the girl in the bucket hat gets magic courage and starts frontin’ Greaser Ryan Reynolds, who seems offended that she’s not steppin’ off.)

Is it a comedy?

Why yes, sometimes it is.

But how do you separate the intentional from the unintentional? Sure, it’s funny when Louise uses witchcraft to make her least favorite teacher take off his clothes during class in a Rated-PG manner, but is it supposed to be funny when during a pivotal emotional moment where Louise decides she doesn’t need witchcraft to fall in love that right behind her there’s an extra who looks like a demonic Jerry Seinfeld wearing a hideous sweater and dancing in the most awkward way possible while staring right at her?

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Is it a dramatic, Hughes-ish, coming-of-age that real teens can relate to?

“Be happy with your non-witch form” is the lesson learned, so…maybe?

I…honestly don’t know.

Teen Witch is very ‘80s, and it’s interesting to see how much has changed in teen culture and the films that depict it, along with how much has been retained. Once Louise transitions from ugly duckling to beautiful swan, wearing Lauper-type ensembles comprised of bright colors and tutus, she becomes adorable. But the pre-witch version of Louise, in her frumpy clothes, her gigantic coats, her bulky sweaters, was still obviously adorable anyway. No amount of flat hair or awkward behavior was going to camouflage that. And that’s still a popular trope that’s been parodied in recent years – the beautiful girl that no one could see was beautiful because she wore glasses. However, amusingly, what the ‘80s depicted as the nerd – thick glasses, sweater vests, pompadours – is the version of today’s hipster and can be found in every catalogue for Old Navy or L.L. Bean. (See the below.)

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Repeating my recent loss of innocence as it pertains to Teen Witch, I understand that I am treading on sacred ground. The catalyst for Teen Witch ending up on my reviewer radar was the announcement of the title on the Blu-ray format and the subsequent outrageous amount of enthusiasm for its release and the adoration of this title. Post-viewing, as I was walking around in a daze and inquiring if any colleagues had managed to get the license plate number off the bus that ran me down – aka, seen Teen Witch – I received a handful of disparate responses. One among them: “Um…TOP THAT is my favorite song!”

Nostalgia is powerful. It can result in everything from fond memories to sheer denial. If I had grown up with Teen Witch in the same way many others did, perhaps my response to it would be different. And maybe these people recognize Teen Witch as cheesy, silly, irreverent, and somewhat poorly made at times (in one scene I swear Zelda Rubinstein is reading her lines off cue cards like Christopher Walken during an SNL skit), but it’s also admittedly perfectly harmless and certainly worthy of your embrace. And anyone who knows me knows that I’ve embraced much worse for far less. One thing is for certain: while watching Teen Witch, I was never bored, never not entertained, and I’ll probably never forget it.

Top that!

THE PICTURE  4/5

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Boy, Teen Witch sure is colorful. And while I’m talking about the film in general, that goes double for the wardrobe. The ’80s loved solid, primary colors, and Teen Witch doesn’t disappoint. It also looks very good, overall, in its video presentation. Areas of minor concern are some errant print damage from time to time along with certain scenes that look a little blown out and saturated with light (as it was likely originally filmed), but other than that, Teen Witch actually looks pretty damn good — and without the mystic help of Zelda Rubinstein!

 THE SOUND 4/5

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Listen to that soundtrack! Quick, pick your poison. What’s your favorite. “High School Blues”? “I Like Boys”? Perhaps “What Are You Doing About Love”? Spoiler: they’re all stupid! But I’ll be damned if they don’t add to Teen Witch‘s enjoyment. Like the video presentation, the audio is actually quite good. The bubblegummy soundtrack and the dialogue mix well without struggling over each other (and you will not want to miss a single word of this dialogue). No issues with sibilant dialogue or dropouts were noted and I had no issues with the “Top That!” rap sequence whatsoever, I mean it.

 THE SUPPLEMENTS 4.5/5

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In her interview, Robyn Lively presents herself as an infectiously enthusiastic and likable person, and the worst thing she has to say about the film is that it’s “cheesy” at times. Otherwise she offers a lot of appreciation for it and seems genuinely thankful to have been part of it. The interview is repetitive at times, but overall it’s very entertaining, as she’s a lively (haw haw) interview subject. Really, the same goes for all the interviews, most of which hover around the twenty-minute mark. All told this edition offers about three hours of special features (including the somewhat chaotic, unfocused, but entertaining cast commentary track), which is kind of insane because it’s Teen Witch.

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Commentary features actors Robyn Lively, Joshua Miller, Dan Gauthier, and Mandy Ingber
  • Interview with Robyn Lively
  • Interview with Dan Gauthier
  • Interview with Lisa Fuller
  • Interview with Mandy Ingber
  • Interview with songwriters Larry and Tom Weir
  • Interview with Robyn Lively and Mandy Ingber
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)

 OVERALL 4/5

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teen_witch_blu-ray_covTeen Witch
is here! Those of you who have caught it recently on Netflix and loved it, or who grew up with it, are probably delighted. And you should be. Partnering with Scorpion Releasing, this is one of Kino’s best Blu-ray releases in a while. With excellent PQ and AQ and a staggering amount of special features, the definition of a cult title has been given a tremendous amount of treatment and I sincerely doubt anyone salivating at the idea of finally owning this title in high-def will be disappointed.

 

THE DISTRIBUTORS

Kino Lorber was founded in 2009, combining the resources, staffs and libraries of Lorber Films, Alive Mind and Kino International to create a new leader in independent film distribution. Through its varied group of labels, Kino Lorber offers the best in contemporary, classic and documentary films that aim to engage, provoke, stimulate, and entertain today’s audiences.

Specializing in some of the most sought-after indie and studio movies, Scorpion Releasing will focus on definitive editions of films, spanning every genre imaginable. From HBO family classics to award-winning foreign films; from arthouse and drive-in escapist fun to the most infamous horror and sci-fi; Scorpion will present each of these eclectic and unique films with insightful bonus extras as well. Scorpion is here to add a much-needed sting to the DVD industry, and the buzz has only just begun.


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Written by

J. Tonzelli is a writer, film critiquer, and avid Arnold/Van Damme/Bronson enthusiast who resides in rural South Jersey. He is the author of "The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween" and the "Fright Friends Adventure" series, co-authored with Chris Evangelista. He loves abandoned buildings, the supernatural, and films by John Carpenter. You can read some of his short fiction at his website, JTonzelli.com, or objectify him by staring at his tweets: @jtonzelli. He apologizes for all the profanity.

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