Teen Witch

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ZELDA RUBINSTEIN, ROBYN LIVELY

In all the Harry Potter talk that we’ve been inundated with the last few years, one thing that the mainstream media has consistently failed to report is how J.K. Rowling stole all her ideas from the 1989 film “Teen Witch.” This is because the mainstream media is in bed with the powerful magic industry.

Don’t believe me? Well, consider this. The Harry Potter books are about a teenage boy who practices magic. “Teen Witch” is about a teenage GIRL who practices magic. Harry Potter can cast spells that render people motionless. Louise, the girl in “Teen Witch,” can cast spells that enable people to perform freestyle rap. And while Harry Potter has a tall elderly gay man as his mentor, Louise is guided by a spherical elfin palm-reader. I BELIEVE I HAVE MADE MY CASE.

“Teen Witch” only played in about two theaters for about a day in 1989, but it was subsequently shown on cable repeatedly throughout the 1990s and 2000s, infecting an entire generation of young girls with its unsavory ideas about the practice of dark magic and the overuse of denim in one’s wardrobe. On the other hand, it does present a positive message, which is that no matter how unpopular you are you can always call upon the powers of the dark lord Satan to make people like you.

unsexy rooftop dancing

The film begins with what turns out to be a dream sequence in which Louise (Robyn Lively) dances on the ledge of a rooftop with Brad (Dan Gauthier), the high school quarterback she has a crush on. You can tell it’s a dream because he’s paying attention to her, and because she isn’t dressed like a 1950s librarian. When she’s awake, Louise is dowdy and frumpy and only has one friend, Polly (Mandy Ingber), whom she chose because Polly is even dowdier and frumpier than she is. Even Louise’s little brother doesn’t respect her, and he looks like Rosie O’Donnell.

Louise's lesbian brother

Things are very strange at the high school Louise and Polly attend. For one thing, there’s a trio of white guys rapping in the hallway all the time (like the ghosts that are always circulating at Hogwarts!!). For another thing, in the locker room there’s a squad of girls in matching purple leotards who break into a spontaneous musical number called “I Like Boys.” The lyrics are as follows:

I like boys.
I like boys,
I like boys;
I like boys!

There are a lot of songs in the movie, but this is the best one.

spontaneous leotards

A few days before her 16th birthday, Louise stumbles into the lair of a fortune teller named Madame Serena, played by Zelda Rubinstein, the round little woman from “Poltergeist.” (If Madame Serena were to become a fugitive from the law, you’d say there was a small medium at large!!!!!!!!!!) Serena tells Louise that her magical powers will emerge the day she turns 16. Louise is skeptical, which if you ask me is a pretty lousy attitude for a loser like her to have. I mean, you might as well hope for something.

Sure enough, Louise first notices her magic powers when she goes to the school dance, where everyone pours pig’s blood on her and she uses telekinesis to kill them. No, I’m kidding. That would actually be interesting. What happens instead is that Louise gazes at hunky Brad dancing with his girlfriend, the improbably named “Randa” (Lisa Fuller), and wishes that he would stop — AND HE DOES! And then Louise idly wishes he’d come over and talk to her — AND HE DOES! Then Louise wishes she had a Diet Coke — BUT THEY ONLY HAVE DIET PEPSI! Curses!

Later, when Louise is being driven home by her nerdy date (whom she was set up with as a cruel prank by Randa), the nerd gets all handsy with her and she wishes he’d leave her alone — and he disappears into thin air, never to be heard from again, probably wished away to the cornfield.

Louise and Serena

Freaked out, Louise hurries home and accidentally turns her little brother, Richie, into a dog. Hearing her parents pull into the driveway, she panics and tries to hide Richie the dog in a bathtub full of water, because really, what better place to hide a dog? The water instantly reverses the spell, though, and Richie becomes a boy again. Why the tub was full of water and bubble bath in the first place is not explained.

The next day, Louise goes to Madame Serena, who figures out that Louise is descended from real witches centuries ago. Also, there’s an amulet that she wears because her drama teacher at school gave it to her. Somehow the amulet has something to do with her ancestors and her powers, or something. Also, sometimes Louise can just wish for things to happen, and other times she has to cast spells involving Latin-sounding magic words. Apparently all the stuff she did that first night happened to be things that can be accomplished without the incantations, which is a pretty lucky coincidence.

Now cognizant of her mighty power, Louise’s thoughts naturally turn filthy. She asks Serena if it’s possible to cast a spell on Brad to make him love her. “Love you?” Serena replies. “With me being your coach he’s gonna become your love slave!” And with me being your script editor that line is being awkwardly written.

rapping nerds

It doesn’t matter, though, because Louise chickens out on casting a spell on Brad. She tells Serena it wouldn’t be fair, that she wants Brad to fall in love with her because of who she is — a bland, plain-faced nobody — and not because she summoned dark forces to cloud his mind and overtake his judgment. She has no problem using her powers for Polly, though. Polly has the hots for one of the three white rappers, the one in the middle who wears an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt over a tank top, and so Louise enchants her so she’ll be really good at rapping and impress the guy. This leads to one of the most painful scenes in the history of cinema:

I’m hot! And you’re not!
But if you want to hang with me I’ll give it one shot!
Top that! Top that!
You can do all that you can but you’ll never top that!

These lyrics are rude and upsetting. After you’ve declared yourself hot and told me I’m not, why would I even WANT to hang with you? And why order me to “top that” in one line only to tell me in the next that it’s impossible? You trifle with my affections, boastful Paul Rudd-ish smart-alecky rapper.

dreamy Brad

Louise then gets the idea to use witchcraft to make herself the most popular girl in school. Apparently making Brad fall in love with her is wrong but making the entire school fall in love with her is fine. The spell requires her to get a jacket from a very popular singer named Shana, I guess because Shana represents what Louise wants to be, i.e., not Louise. She uses some minor magic to get the jacket, casts the spell, and whammo! The next day everyone at school adores her. Her hairstyle, clothing, and makeup are suddenly fashionable, too — though I wonder why, since the spell was going to make her popular anyway. Maybe she was so frumpy that even the powerful popularity spell wouldn’t work unless she got a makeover to go with it. (“Look, I can only do so much!” cries an exasperated Lucifer.)

Brad finally takes notice of Louise now, and they retreat to a ramshackle house in a meadow that I guess belongs to Brad? Or someone he knows? Nobody’s home, anyway, and so Brad and Louise take the opportunity to make sweet, boring love. On the way back to Louise’s house, Brad asks her to the dance (they have a lot of dances at this school) but now Louise feels guilty about tricking him into loving her so she tells him to get lost. She goes to the dance with Madame Serena instead, violating the cardinal rule of dating, which is that you never go to prom with your psychic, and once she gets there she throws the amulet — remember the amulet? — to Serena, signifying that she (Louise) is finished with magic for good. Which is interesting, since she never seemed to need the amulet anyway. More of a symbolic gesture, I guess. At any rate, Brad apparently (?) loves her anyway (?) and they all live happily (?) ever after, I think? I don’t know. But let’s watch the trailer:

— Film.com