‘Witching and Bitching’ Review
Spanish filmmaker Alex de la Iglesia wowed audiences a couple of years ago with his dark comedic tragedy ‘The Last Circus.’ He returns this year with ‘Witching and Bitching,’ an overloaded tale of a group of male criminals who run straight into the mouth of madness when they seek refuge in a town of witches. The film is a comedic, outlandish exploration of the battle of the sexes told through the lens of de la Iglesia, whose everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach does his story a disservice.
There’s plenty to enjoy in ‘Witching and Bitching,’ primarily the snappy dialogue and pacing, and the banter between witches and thieves — de la Iglesia plays with sexist stereotype well, satirizing the eternal, needless battle between man and woman. The film follows Jose, a single dad who is trying to pull off a pawn-shop heist with the help of some comrades so he can pay his alimony and provide for his son. But he brings his son along for the ride and ropes in an unwitting getaway driver (who soon becomes very witting), and the group ride into the town of Zugarramurdi, an old village populated by cannibalistic (and seriously wacky) witches believing that these men are integral to fulfilling a prophecy.
To complicate things even further, Jose falls for the beautiful young witch Eva, whose evolution over the course of the film represents the struggle between accepting fate and choosing destiny, but to her family, she’s betraying all woman kind by falling love with a man. Eva must reconcile her strict upbringing, which has taught her that men are useless, with the idea that there’s room for both women and men to coexist peacefully.
Where de la Iglesia gets lost is in the third act, when a film that already feels like it’s off the rails somehow finds another rail off which to jump, devolving into a mess of garish CG and extraneous characters. The beautiful, colorful visuals on display in ‘The Last Circus’ are present here, but de la Iglesia struggles to craft a coherent experience. There are too many visuals and ideas clashing with one another, and the end result is noisy and verges on trashy. A little goes a long way, and even for someone like de la Iglesia — who isn’t known for restraint — the mess of plot and the clash between the busy cinematography, the abundance of characters, and the tacky CG muddies the story and undercuts the more successful elements of the film.
Even still, actors Hugo Silva and Carolina Bang fully commit to the wacky proceedings and where de la Iglesia shows no restraint, his players do, helping wrangle what’s otherwise, for all intents and purposes, a live-action cartoon. ‘Witching and Bitching’ is at its best when it feels more like satire and less like Looney Tunes, but for all its flaws and extraneous embellishments, the film is mostly entertaining. There’s definitely a line between decadence and over-indulgence, and where ‘The Last Circus’ was certainly the former, ‘Witching and Bitching’ is unfortunately the latter.