Romance is the most powerful spell of all...or so one teenager learns in this fun teen fantasy starring Robyn Lively (Chicago Hope), Zelda Rubinstein (the Poltergeist trilogy), Dan Gauthier (Beverly Hills, 90210) and Dick Sargent (Bewitched). 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?
Some movies are defined by their era. They're so completely linked to the decade in which they're made, it can be hard for an outsider to fully appreciate the majesty on screen. This is especially true for the 80s coming of age classic 'Teen Witch' from director Dorian Walker. Starring Robyn Lively, Dan Gauthier, and Dick Sargent, 'Teen Witch' follows a familiar pattern of an outsider becoming the most popular kid in school - but at the cost of their own personality. You may have seen this movie a few dozen times before, but the 80s camp sense of humor and musical sensibilities keep the flick feeling fresh and fun decades later.
Hormone-addled teenage outcast Louise Miller (Robyn Lively) is at a loss for love. Her crush is the school football captain Brad (Dan Gauthier) - but he hardly notices she even exists. Her father Frank (Dick Sargent) and her best friend Polly (Mandy Ingber) try and help Louise to keep her best face forward - even when dodging insults from her little brother Richie (Joshua Miller). Through a chance encounter with the mystic Madame Serena (Zelda Rubinstein), the red-headed Louise learns she's in fac,t a witch! A witch who will start to get her powers on the night of her 16th birthday. When those powers start to manifest themselves, Louise is in desperate need for some training. Armed with a charm and a beginner's guide for witches, Louise's incantations turn her from not to hot. But with great power comes great responsibility when Louise's newfound popularity strains her friendships and her individuality. If Louise hopes to truly win Brad's heart, she's going to have to learn to believe in herself without the magic.
While I certainly saw 'Teen Witch' when it came out in 1989, it wasn't my personal favorite by any means. I was full on in love with 'Batman.' However, my wife fell in love with 'Teen Witch' as a kid and ever since it's remained her go to movie when she needed something brainless and fun. To that end, I've gotten to see this movie several more times over years and I have to admit that each time I see it, I like it a little bit more. While certainly aimed at young girls, the comic book nerd outcast of my youth can appreciate the themes and sentiments the movie brings up. Everyone wants to be loved and accepted; popularity is an addictive drug. And while many are willing to do just about anything to be accepted, it's far more gratifying to be appreciated for who you are rather than what you're willing to do to sell yourself out for a glimmer of the spotlight.
Plot structure wise, there really isn't all that much unique to 'Teen Witch.' Basically, it's 'Sixteen Candles' and 'Pretty In Pink' without the John Hughes dialogue and a healthy dose of goofy witchcraft. Louise's arc as a character is pretty darn predictable and one can see the plot beats a mile away, but that familiarity is also a strength. It becomes less of seeing what Louise does to get what she wants but how she does it. Casting spells that make her popular but accidentally turning her monster little brother into a dog or making the lecherous nerd disappear is a lot of fun. What sets this movie apart from the numerous other "nerdy teen becomes popular" flicks of its era is the fact that it's actually a musical without actually being a musical. Aside from some cringeworthy rapping, there isn't actually any singing. There are song and dance numbers where the cast breaks out into casually well-choreographed dance routines - but they're not singing catchy lyrics or pantomiming to modern pop tunes, they're simply dancing.
At the end of the day, 'Teen Witch' may not be the tell all be all of the teen coming of age movies. It's a bit hammy, a bit silly, and the story has been done hundreds of times over by this point, but it's still a good time. It thrives on its plucky infectious energy and its heart is in the right place. The cast is on point, Dick Sargent is still odd casting to me outside of the tangential 'Bewitched' connection, but everyone is giving this thing their all. For better or worse, the filmmakers double down on the silly stuff while also taking care to make sure our lead witch enjoys a personal character arc. Nearly 30 years after its release, the flick is still a good time.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Teen Witch' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber and Scorpion Releasing. Pressed onto a Region A BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu that features all of the settings and bonus feature selection right on the main splash screen without needing to navigate to different sections of the menu.
After being out in the home video wilds for over 27 years, 'Teen Witch' casts its spell on Blu-ray with a respectable 1.81:1 1080p transfer. Newcomers may not see the big deal, but ardent fans should spot the uptick in quality immediately. Previous home video releases always looked extremely hazy and soft lacking any fine detail. While this film has some purposeful soft focus moments details come roaring to life. Facial features, the 80s stylings, costumes, set design; all are on display for viewers to pick over. Grain is present but naturally defined without ever becoming too noisy. Colors are bright, bold, and beautiful with those garish 80s neon/pastel tones. Flesh colors are healthy and accurate. Black levels can be a bit thick in places but there is a nicely appreciable sense of depth to the image. The source elements for this transfer are in pretty great shape with only some mild speckling to report. All around a great looking release.
As great as this movie looks, 'Teen Witch' sounds even better. As I said before, this film is basically a musical at heart as there are numerous song and dance interludes. The pop tunes for these moments sound terrific with this DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix. Dialogue is clean and clear without any interference from the songs and sound effects. When the mix isn't being dominated by a pop song, there is an appreciable sense of atmosphere and space to the mix. Free of any age-related issues, this is a pretty fantastic mix for a flick of this nature.
Audio Commentary: Stars Robyn Lively, Joshua John Miller, Dan Gauthier, and Mandy Ingber reunite for this fun cast commentary. While it definitely has that "reunion" vibe to it, the group does a great job of keeping the show going and provide some entertaining anecdotes about making the movie.
Robyn Lively Interview: (HD 23:19) Lively is clearly an entertaining energy to be around. She discusses at length getting the part, working on the film, making friends with the cast and her career post 'Teen Witch.'
Dan Gauthier Interview: (HD 20:14) Gauthier shares a number of great bits about working on the film, but the nicest story is probably how he met his wife co-star Lisa Fuller on the set.
Mandy Ingber: (HD 16:19) While it sounds like Ingber is happy with her experiences overall, one gets the sense she didn't love every moment of filming. She's got a few carefully chosen words about the director Dorian Walker and a few other aspects of the film that burn pretty deep.
Lisa Fuller Interview: (HD 3:50) This is a very brief but nice interview with the actress mostly discussing meeting her husband, Dan Gauthier.
Songwriters Larry and Tom Weir Interview: (HD 21:18) The dynamic songwriting brothers have some cool stories about creating some of the tunes for the movie, their desires to make Teen Witch: The Musical, as well as having some measure of difficulty giving the soundtrack a proper release to capitalize on the film's popularity.
Robyn Lively and Mandy Ingber Interview: (HD 15:38) The pair clearly get along well and have a great time chatting about the film, what they loved, what they're eternally embarrassed by and how the film continues to haunt them to this day (in a nice way).
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 2:17)
The nice thing about 'Teen Witch' is that it doesn't necessarily have to be "your kind of movie" in order for it to be relatable. This isn't my favorite movie, but I do like it quite a bit. Every time I see it, I find some story nugget that becomes more appreciable. It's the perfect movie for anyone entering that awkward teen phase of life and it's a great piece of escapism entertainment. Kino Lorber and Scorpion Releasing have done a bang up job releasing 'Teen Witch' onto Blu-ray. The video and audio look better than ever and a damn impressive assortment of worthwhile bonus features have been assembled for this release. 'Teen Witch' is a very easy Blu-ray to recommend.