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  Teen Witch
Year: 1989
Director: Dorian Walker
Stars: Robyn Lively, Dan Gauthier, Joshua John Miller, Caren Kaye, Dick Sargent, Lisa Fuller, Mandy Ingber, Zelda Rubinstein, Noah Blake, Megan Gallivan, Alsari Al-Shehali, Shelly Berman, Marcia Wallace, Daniel William Carter, Tona Dodd, Cherie Franklin
Genre: Comedy, Romance, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Louise (Robyn Lively) is just about to turn sixteen but is already convinced her life is a disaster. She longs for Brad (Dan Gauthier), football team hero, but he is going out with the most popular girl in school and would never even notice frumpy Louise unless something truly radical occurred. This morning she has a rude awakening when her ever-hungry brother Richie (Joshua John Miller) is under her bed eating, and to make matters worse he has been reading her diary where she pours her heart out to Brad, but what she doesn't realise is that the page Richie has been reading gets into her homework, and the English teacher (Shelly Berman) reads it out! And Brad hears it! Louise needs a miracle...

As the title suggests, Teen Witch was a follow-up to the hit Michael J. Fox vehicle Teen Wolf, not that it shared any of the same cast, but the similarities in plot were definitely present. Reasoning that no teen girl target audience would want to see a film about one of their number sprouting hair all over her body, they settled on a different supernatural twist, and made Louise a witch, like Michael finding her special powers on her sixteenth birthday. She did not quite go overboard and start summoning billions of dollars into her bank account, but she could conjure up the wishes she wanted granted simply by using an amulet which hung around her neck. Where did she get that?

From Zelda Rubinstein, of course, the tiny actress still best known as the psychic from the Poltergeist franchise, and once again in a spooky role, though here spooky in the way an episode of Scooby-Doo was. She's Serena, a friendly fortune teller who identifies Louise's talent for witchcraft, and encourages her to nurture it, apparently because the girl grants her wishes and spruces up Zelda's apartment with expensive accoutrements: this clairvoyant job has perks, evidently. But more important than that is Brad, who our heroine has set her sights on with alarming forcefulness, orchestrating events around herself to ensure that he notices how splendid she is and falls for her.

This starts small, and in truth it ended fairly small too, with the lesson Fox learned that popularity does not necessarily make you a great person, and it's better to be the best version of yourself, you know, all that morally improving business you would get at the coda of an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe or Inspector Gadget, but you were not that interested in which was why they stuck it at the end of the story just at the point your attention was waning. Nothing wrong with teaching the kids to be excellent to one another, but as you may have discerned, in 1989 Bill and Ted had sneaked in that message to their gloriously silly movie with a lot more skill and aplomb. That may be why Teen Witch did not do spectacularly well at the box office, and would have been a footnote to Teen Wolf, all of five years earlier.

However, thanks to VHS and other means of watching at home, the film began to win a new lease of life as it amassed a cult, especially when it was plain the nineteen-eighties were big with the youth of the early twenty-first century (well, some of them). This was now regarded as a classic era in the same way that decade looked back on the fifties (hence Fox's Back to the Future slap bang in the middle of it raking in the profits), and trifles like Teen Witch, which just made it as part of the era, was very eighties indeed, with impromptu musical numbers and loud fashions that set it in a moment in time. About the only indication those times they were a-changin' were the rap group of white high school students ("Look at how funky he is!") and Louise's best pal Polly (Mandy Ingber, future yoga instructor to the stars) performing her own rhymes in that style. Because it was PG-13, there was a sex education class, an excuse for saucy language, but nothing utterly ribald. Yeah, yeah, there was a plot to be getting on with, but it was perfunctorily wrapped up: really, you watched this for nostalgia, even if you were not around back then. What happened to David, anyway?! Music by Richard Elliot.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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