Review: ‘The Idea of You,’ starring Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine

April 14, 2024

by Carla Hay

Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine in “The Idea of You (Photo by Alisha Wetherill/Amazon Content Services)

“The Idea of You”

Directed by Michael Showalter

Culture Representation: Taking place in California and various parts of Europe, the comedy/drama film “The Idea of You” (based on the novel of the same name) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A divorced American mother, who is an art-gallery owner and who turns 40 years old in the story, has a controversial romance with a British pop star, who is 16 years younger than she is. 

Culture Audience: “The Idea of You” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and well-acted movies about romances where there’s a big age gap between the love partners.

Ella Rubin and Anne Hathaway in “The Idea of You (Photo by Alisha Wetherill/Amazon Content Services)

“The Idea of You” is utterly formulaic, but the movie benefits from Anne Hathaway’s radiant and realistic performance as a divorced mother in love with a pop star who is 16 years younger than she is. Nicholas Galitzine also shines as a charismatic charmer. One of the refreshing things about the movie is that it doesn’t try to pretend that the two lovers at the center of the story are meant to be married soul mates who will live happily ever after. This movie is a celebration of living in the moment and embracing happiness where you can find it.

Directed by Michael Showalter, “The Idea of You” is written by Showalter and Jennifer Westfeldt. The screenplay is adapted from Robinne Lee’s 2017 novel of the same name. Fans of the book might want to know that although the movie’s overall plot is the same as the book, the ending of the movie is different from the book’s ending. The tone of the movie is also more comedic than the much more serious tone of book. “The Idea of You” had its world premiere at the 2024 SXSW Film and TV Festival.

In “The Idea of You,” Solène Marchand (played by Hathaway), who turns 40 years old during this story, is the owner of a successful and progressive art gallery called Marchand Collective, in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake district. Solène is a divorced mother of a vivacious 17-year-old daughter named Izzy (played by Ella Rubin), who is in her third year at Campbell High School. Solène has primary custody of Izzy, while Solène’s ex-husband Daniel (played Reid Scott) has visitation rights. Daniel is a lawyer who is married to his second wife Eva (played by Perry Mattfeld), a lawyer who’s about 15 years younger than Daniel.

The movie begins in the spring season. Izzy and her two close teenage schoolmates—flamboyant Zeke (played by Jordan Aaron Hall) and mild-mannered Georgia (played by Mathilda Gianopoulos)—are planning to go to the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, which is about 129 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Daniel has promised to drive Izzy and her pals to the festival and be their chaperone. During this weekend excursion while Izzy is away, Solène plans to take a camping trip by herself. Solène has friends, but her life mostly revolves around her job and Izzy.

On the day that Daniel is supposed to take Izzy, Zeke and Georgia to Coachella, Daniel finds out that he has to go to Houston on a sudden business trip. Daniel persuades a reluctant Solène to be the Coachella chaperone. Daniel already bought the festival VIP tickets, as well as a VIP meet-and-greet experience for August Moon, a superstar pop singing group performing at Coachella.

August Moon used to be Izzy’s favorite group when she was in seventh grade. Izzy feels that she now outgrown August Moon, which has a “teen idol” boy band image. Izzy is now into more “serious” music, not teenybopper pop. The fact that Daniel doesn’t know Izzy’s current taste in music (and didn’t care to find out) is an indication of how he’s out-of-touch with who Izzy currently is. By contrast, Solène knows Izzy very well because they are very close. Solène and Izzy are sometimes mistaken as sisters. Izzy is at a stage in her life when she wants to assert her independence from her parents.

At Coachella, Izzy and her pals go somewhere to see a performance, while Solène is by herself in a VIP lounge area. She asks someone where the nearest restroom is, and she’s pointed in the direction of some unmarked trailers. And here comes the “meet cute” moment. Solène accidentally goes in the trailer of Hayes Campbell (played by Galitzine), the British lead singer of August Moon.

Hayes is in the locked restroom when Solène knocks on the door, just as he is leaving the restroom. They both look startled to see each other there. Hayes doesn’t ask who Solène is and what she’s doing there. When Solène comes out of the restroom, she sees Hayes lounging right near the restroom door. She makes a snarky comment to Hayes that if he’s one of these ASMR people who likes to listen to people urinate, it’s a privacy violation. It’s Hayes informs Solène that this is his private trailer.

And when he introduces himself as Hayes Campbell from August Moon, it’s Solène’s turn to be embarrassed. She tells him that she’s at the festival with her daughter Izzy, who used to be a fan of August Moon. Hayes seems a little embarrassed to hear this information but doesn’t take it as an insult. Solène explains that Solène’s ex-husband bought August Moon meet-and-greet passes for Solène, Izzy and Izzy’s two friends, so she will probably see Hayes later. By now, it’s obvious that Hayes is attracted to Solène, and she’s feeling the same way but trying to hide it.

The conversation between Solène and Hayes is cut short because he has to go on stage soon for August Moon’s performance. August Moon is portrayed in the movie as being very much like One Direction, but with much more generic songs than One Direction. Just like One Direction, the five members of August Moon didn’t know each other before auditioning to be in the group.

But unlike One Direction, the members of August Moon don’t all come from European countries. Hayes lives in London. Hayes’ closest friend in August Moon is Oliver (played by Raymond Cham Jr.), an outgoing American. Hayes describes the other August Moon members to Solène this way: Oliver has “swagger”; Rory (played by Dakota Adan) is the “Aussie rebel”; Adrian (played by Jaiden Anthony) has a heartthrob smile; and Simon (played by Viktor White) is a “brooding poet.”

Hayes might describe Rory as the group’s heartthrob, but the reality is that Hayes is the member of August Moon who gets the most “heartthrob” attention. (Hayes is August Moon’s version of Harry Styles from One Direction.) In other words, anyone who dates Hayes will get a massive amount of scrutiny from fans and the media. You know where all of this is going, of course. Luckily for Solène, Rory was always Izzy’s favorite member of August Moon.

Solène, Izzy, Zeke and Georgia are in the audience during August Moon’s Coachella performance. Izzy and her pals are mainly there for nostalgia reasons, not because they are huge fans of the group. Hayes changes the rehearsed set by singing “Closer to You” and adding a dedication before the song by saying, “I met someone today.” Solène is close enough to the stage for Hayes to make eye contact with her and to let her know that he’s dedicating the song to her. (Galitzine does his own singing in the movie and on the soundtrack album.)

Solène is aware that most of the fans in the audience would love to have this type of attention, but she feels a mixture of embarrassment and flattery. Later at the meet-and-greet event with August Moon, Hayes flirts with Solène some more. Solène doesn’t think of it as more than harmless flirting that will go nowhere.

Shortly after her 40th birthday party (where Solène met some incompatible bachelors), she gets a surprise when Hayes shows up at her art gallery and buys everything in it. Hayes flatters Solène and continues to flirt with her. His vocabulary is pretty limited—he tells Solène, “I think you’re smart and hot”—but she finds his attention pretty irresistible. She agrees to spend time with him but says she’s not looking to “date” him.

Hayes has some time in Los Angeles before August Moon begins a European tour. Hayes and Solène go on some platonic dates, but their attraction to each other grows after they open up to each other about their personal lives. Solène, who studied art history in college, tells Hayes that she and Daniel met when she moved from the East Coast to Los Angeles because she couldn’t afford to be an artist in New York.

Solène and Daniel got married after they became parents to Izzy. Solène is candid about how she has a hard time believing in love because she thought she had a solid marriage before Daniel left her for Eva, who was a junior attorney at his law firm at the time. Solène (who is no longer in love with Daniel) was the last person in their social circle to find out about Daniel’s infidelity. Solène and Daniel got divorced about three years ago.

As for Hayes (who is an only child), he mentions that his parents split up when he was young, he was raised by his mother, and his father was mostly absent from Hayes’ life. Hayes’ mother is now remarried (Hayes doesn’t say when she got remarried), but Hayes is not close to his stepfather, whom Hayes describes as traditional and boring. Hayes doesn’t go into details about how his mother’s current marriage has affected him.

Hayes’ biological father didn’t reconnect with Hayes until after Hayes became rich and famous. Hayes has mixed feelings about his father but is open to having his father back in his life, even if it’s a troubled relationship. One of the flaws in “The Idea of You” is that there is absolutely nothing that shows how Hayes is with his family, nor does Solène seem interested in meeting any of his family members.

Hayes essentially begs Solène to go on tour with him in Europe. The tour conveniently happens during the same time that Izzy will be away at summer camp. Solène is hesitant and comes up with all types of excuses not to go on tour with Hayes. One of them is that she’s too old for him. Another is that she can’t take time off from her job. Another is that she doesn’t know if she can handle his lifestyle of intrusion by media and fans, because she is accustomed to being a private person.

But you already know the decision that Solène makes. It’s the start of a hot and heavy affair between Hayes and Solène that’s kept a secret from everyone in Solène’s life except her best friend Tracy (played by Annie Mumolo), who approves of Solène having fun with a younger man. At first, Solène and Hayes tell his entourage that she’s on the tour as Hayes’ “art consultant,” but it isn’t long before Solène and Hayes show public displays of affection with each other on the tour’s private jet and in other places.

Hayes and Solène certainly have a physical attraction to each other. Their mutual emotional attraction is also obvious. But other things in the relationship indicate trouble ahead that have nothing to do with their age differences. For starters, Solène and Hayes both have very different lifestyles and incompatible social circles. In his free time, Hayes only seems to hang out with the other members of August Moon and their groupies. Solène’s friends are mature people in her age group.

Solène and Hayes also live in two different countries. In order for the relationship to last, compromises have to be made. And when someone who isn’t rich and famous is in a relationship with someone who is rich and famous, the wealthy celebrity is usually the one whose partner ends up making the most sacrifices and compromises.

Hathaway does a very good job in expressing the nuances and inner conflicts of someone who considers herself to be an independent feminist but who is caught up in a romance where she is perceived as someone who is very much not an equal to her love partner. As for Hayes, there are hints that he’s been a promiscuous “bad boy” in his recent past, but he’s ready to settle down in a monogamous relationship. However, is Solène “the one”?

“The Idea of You” has the expected sexy scenes (there’s no nudity) of Hayes and Solène in passionate trysts, as well as glamour shots of Hayes and Solène on romantic dates. And then there are the predictable scenes of Solène getting humiliated by people who want her to feel like she’s a predatory “cougar” who’s out of her league. Solène realistically vacillates between feeling shame and feeling defiance over the 16-year age difference between her and Hayes.

However, some things in “The Idea of You” are missing and prevent this movie from looking completely authentic. Hayes and Solène are supposed to be “in love,” and Hayes makes it clear he wants a long-term relationship with Solène. However, Solène and Hayes are never seen talking about they want or don’t want for their futures, in terms of marriage and parenthood. The parenthood issue is especially time-sensitive, since Solène is getting close to the age range when women begin menopause.

It’s also glaringly obvious that Hayes and Solène don’t have much to talk about outside of a few common interests in art or entertainment. The movie shows that because their relationship started off as a secret, it was built on lies of omission that required Solène to betray the trust of her loved ones. The consequences of these lies are shown in the movie. As the character of Solène, Hathaway skillfully expresses a balancing act between Solène’s vulnerabilities and Solène’s strengths. The character of Hayes is much less layered, but that’s probably because Hayes still has some growing up to do.

“The Idea of You” allows viewers to weigh the pros and cons of this couple who have the odds stacked against them in many ways. Solène likes the idea of being “swept off her feet” by a handsome and caring heartthrob, but she also wants the freedom to make her own life decisions without being overshadowed by celebrity trappings. Hayes might not be Mr. Right for Solène, but he’s Mr. Right Now—and sometimes that’s all that’s needed for people at certain times in their lives. “The Idea of You,” for all of its Hollywood movie moments, shows the reality that some love is unpredictable and might not last, but if it makes you a better person, it’s probably worth experiencing.

Prime Video will premiere “The Idea of You” on May 2, 2024.

Review: ‘Bottoms’ (2023), starring Rachel Sennott, Ayo Edebiri, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Nicholas Galitzine, Dagmara Dominczyk and Marshawn Lynch

August 24, 2023

by Carla Hay

Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott in “Bottoms” (Photo by Patti Perret/Orion Pictures)

“Bottoms” (2023)

Directed by Emma Seligman

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the comedic film “Bottoms” features an predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and a few Asians and Latin people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two lesbian best friends start an all-female fight club in their homophobic high school as a way to lose their virginities to cheerleaders. 

Culture Audience: “Bottoms” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and comedic movies where queer people are the central characters.

Ayo Edebiri, Rachel Sennott, Zamani Wilder, Summer Joy Campbell, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber and Virginia Tucker in “Bottoms” (Photo courtesy of Orion Pictures)

“Bottoms” is a bawdy and occasionally bloody comedy that gets gleefully absurd in this story about two lesbian best friends who start an all-female fight club in their high school. The originality outshines some of the film’s clichés. Even people who might not like “Bottoms” can admit that there are many things in this movie that have never been said and done before in a teen-oriented comedy.

Directed by Emma Seligman (who co-wrote the “Bottoms” screenplay with “Bottoms” co-stars Rachel Sennott), “Bottoms” had its world premiere at the 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival. A distracting part of this movie is that the cast members portraying high schoolers look too old (early-to-mid 20s) to be in high school. It’s why all the movie’s raunchy dialogue isn’t as edgy as the “Bottoms” filmmakers probably thought it should be. However, because of the talented cast members, the delivery of this dialogue is entertaining, even if many parts of the movie require a huge suspension of disbelief, including the fact that all the cast members playing high schoolers are not really teenagers.

“Bottoms” takes place in an unnamed U.S. city but was actually filmed in Louisiana. The begins with lesbian best friends PJ (played by Sennott) and Josie (played by Ayo Edebiri) talking about sex. At this pont in time, PJ and Josie, who are both virgins, are students in their last year at Rockridge Falls High School. Their fantasies are to lose their virginities to the cheerleaders at the schools who are their biggest crushes.

PJ is hot for Brittany (played by Kaia Gerber), a tall beauty with a sarcastic attitude. (Gerber, who got her start as a model in real life, is the daughter of former supermodel Cindy Crawford.) Josie is infatuated with attractive Isabel (played by Havana Rose Liu), who is dating the school’s start football quarterback Jeff (played by ), a conceited, dimwitted pretty boy who is a chronic liar and cheater. Isabel and Brittany are best friends.

PJ is bossy and obnoxious, but she’s also hilarious and a generally loyal friend. Josie is more sensitive and thoughtful, but she’s also very insecure and plagued with self-doubt. In their conversations about losing their virginities, PJ is confident that it will happen to her before she graduates from high school. Josie thinks that if she has any chance of getting together with Isabel, it’ll probably be if they see each other at their 20-year high school reunion.

At school, PJ and Josie are outcasts because they’re lesbian and because people have heard that PJ and Josie both spent time in juvenile detention for violent crimes. Josie and PJ are often the targets of bigoted hate. Homophobic slurs are often spraypainted on their school lockers. Even the school’s sleazy leader Principal Meyers (played by Wayne Pére) doesn’t hide his homophobia.

There’s an incident where Jeff insults Josie, and she deliberately injures his leg while driving her car with Josie and Isabel as passengers. Principal Meyers calls Josie and PJ into his office and scolds them for injuring the school’s star football player. Rockridge Falls High School’s Vikings football team has been in a fierce rivalry for about 50 years with the Huntington High School Golden Ferrets. And there’s a big football game coming up between the Vikings and the Golden Ferrets

A story has been going around the school that a Rockridge Falls female student was attacked by a Hungtington male student. And so, when Principal Meyers tells PJ and Josie that they need to find a way to channel their “negative energy,” PJ comes up with the idea to start an all-female self-defense club at the school. (It’s really a fight club.) Principal Meyers says the club will be approved if PJ and Josie can find a teacher to be the sponsor/supervisor. PJ and Josie recruit their history teacher Mr. G (played by Marshawn Lynch), who has a hip-hop persona and is going through a divorce.

Josie is reluctant to go through with this fight club idea, but PJ convinces her by telling Josie that the fight club will be a way that they can find potential sex partners. Josie and PJ are thrilled when Isabel and Brittany end up joining the “self-defense club.” Other students are join the club, to varying results.

One of club members is Hazel Callahan (played by Ruby Cruz), who’s androgynous-looking and openly queer, is an even bigger misfit at the school than PJ and Josie, who try not to associate too closely with socially awkward Hazel. Also joining the club is Annie (played by Zamani Wilder), who is proud to be an African American member of the Republican Party. Other memorable supporting characters in “Bottoms” is Hazel’s frisky divorced mother Mrs. Callahan (played by Dagmara Dominczyk) and Vikings football player Tim (played by Miles Fowler), who is Jeff’s smirky sidekick.

The plot for “Bottoms” is fairly simple and a little bit on the formulaic side. However, the movie’s snappy dialogue and great comedic chemistry between the cast members (especially between Sennott and Edibiri) are definitely not formulaic and make this movie shine. Sennott also starred in Seligman’s feature-film directorial debut “Shiva Baby” (written by Seligman), a comedy/drama that was released in 2021 and re-released in 2023. There’s a final showdown in “Bottoms” that gets very over-the-top in its slapstick comedy. Ultimately, “Bottoms” won’t be a massive breakout for any of its stars, but it’s the type of movie that will get a very devoted following who won’t get tired of watching it.

MGM’s Orion Pictures will release “Bottoms” in select U.S. cinemas on August 25, 2023, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on September 1, 2023.

Review: ‘The Craft: Legacy,’ starring Cailee Spaeny, Zoey Luna, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, David Duchovny and Michelle Monaghan

October 28, 2020

by Carla Hay

Lovie Simone, Gideon Adlon, Cailee Spaeny and Zoey Luna in “The Craft: Legacy” (Photo courtesy of Rafy Photography/Columbia Pictures)

“The Craft: Legacy” 

Directed by Zoe Lister-Jones

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, “The Craft: Legacy” features a predominantly white cast (with some Latinos and African Americans) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: Four teenage witches use their witchcraft to turn a school bully into a politically correct, enlightened person, but they find out these actions cause a major backlash.

Culture Audience: “The Craft: Legacy” will appeal primarily to people who like stories about witches that play it very safe. 

David Duchovny, Michelle Monaghan and Cailee Spaeny in “The Craft: Legacy” (Photo courtesy of Rafy Photography/Columbia Pictures)

Just like Blumhouse Productions’ 2019 remake of the sorority horror flick “Black Christmas,” the foundation of Blumhouse Productions’ 2020 teenage witch film “The Craft: Legacy” (a reimagining of the 1996 movie “The Craft”) is about empowering women in the #MeToo feminist era. But “The Craft: Legacy” (written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones) makes the same mistake that the 2019 remake of “Black Christmas” did: By telegraphing these feminist intentions so early in the movie, it’s very easy to figure out who the “villains” are in the story.

The heavy-handed preachiness of “The Craft: Legacy” would be easier to take if the movie delivered a better story that wasn’t filled with major plot holes and had a more consistent tone. This movie needed more horror gravitas and more impressive visual effects instead of ill-suited comedic bits and cheap-looking visual effects that weaken the story’s message.

There are parts of “The Craft: Legacy” that work fairly well: The cast members do adequately good jobs in their roles, and there’s a realistic handling of awkward issues in blended families. But too many other parts of the movie don’t work well at all and are at times quite dull and predictable.

“Black Christmas” and its remakes at least made concerted efforts to be terrifying. By contrast, “The Craft: Legacy,” which obviously has a younger audience in mind than an adult-oriented slasher flick like “Black Christmas,” only has mild scares that are disappointing and often take a back seat to the movie wanting to look more like a teen drama than a horror film. That doesn’t mean that “The Craft: Legacy” had to have a lot of gore, but there are several noteworthy horror movies that are suitable for underage audiences and are still able to be effectively terrifying. Some examples include 1982’s “Poltergeist,” 2001’s “The Others” and 2002’s “The Ring.”

The basic premise of “The Craft” remains intact in “The Craft: Legacy.” Three teenage witches, who are social outcasts at their high school in an unnamed U.S. city, are powerless because they need a fourth witch to complete the circle of their coven. They find out that a new outsider girl at their school is also a witch, and they invite her to join their coven. The four teen witches then use their newfound magical powers to make their wishes come true and get revenge on people who hurt them in some way. The “new girl” is the story’s main protagonist.

In “The Craft,” Neve Campbell, Fairuza Balk, and Rachel True were the original trio of witches, while Robin Tunney played the “new girl” invited into the coven. In “The Craft: Legacy,” the “new girl” is Lily Schechner (played by Cailee Spaeny), while the original coven trio consists of sassy transgender Lourdes (played by Zoey Luna), goofy jokester Frankie (played by Gideon Adlon) and Afrocentric-minded Tabby (played by Lovie Simone).

Spaeny gets the most screen time of the four, and she does a fairly good job in portraying Lily’s angst, although she’s not as assertive as Tunney’s “newbie” character in “The Craft.” Lily is the only one of the four witches whose home life and family are shown in the movie. It’s a big change from the 1996 “The Craft,” where viewers got to see the home lives and family members of three out of the four witches.

Luna is memorable as Lourdes, the member of the coven who’s the most emotionally mature and the unofficial “alpha female” of the group. Adlon will either delight or annoy people with how she portrays Frankie, whose hyperactive and somewhat ditzy energy can get on people’s nerves after a while. Just like True’s character in “The Craft” movie, Simone plays the “supportive friend” whose personality is overshadowed by the other members of the coven.

“The Craft” was set in a private Catholic school where the students had to wear uniforms, whereas “The Craft: Legacy” is set in a regular public school. It’s a change of setting that alters the impact of what being an “outsider” in the school really means. Someone who wears Goth makeup (as does one of the teenage witches in each “Craft” movie) and who’s suspected of being a witch is less likely to be a considered a rebel or an outcast at a public school, compared to a private Catholic school with strict policies about religion, hair, clothes and makeup.

Because the school in the original “The Craft” movie was a private institution, there was more of an elitist aura to the school, which made the teen witches’ “outsider” status a little bit more socially dangerous for them at the school. The World Wide Web was fairly new in the mid-1990s. Social media and smartphones didn’t exist back then. Therefore, the teen witches of “The Craft” probably felt more isolated for being “different” than they would be in modern times when they could find other like-minded people on the Internet.

In “The Craft: Legacy,” social media is not seen or mentioned at all, which is probably writer/director Lister-Jones’ way of trying not to make the movie look too dated when it’s viewed years from now. In fact, the movie has several “throwback” nods to pop culture from a past era. For example, during a car ride, Lily and her mother sing Alanis Morissette’s 1995 hit “Hand in My Pocket.” And in multiple scenes, Lourdes uses a Polaroid camera.

Lily is a pixie-ish and introverted only child who has recently moved to the area with her single mother Helen Schechner (played by Michelle Monaghan), who is a therapist from New Jersey. Lily mentions later in the story that she doesn’t know who her father is, and Helen has never told her. Helen and Lily have relocated because Helen is moving in with her boyfriend Adam Harrison (played by David Duchovny), a motivational speaker/author whose specialty is giving empowering advice and self-help therapy for men.

Adam has three teenage sons, who are introduced to Lily for the first time on the day that Lily and Helen arrive to move into their two-story house. Oldest son Isaiah (played by Donald MacLean Jr.) is about 17 years old. Middle son Jacob (played by Charles Vandervaart) is about 16 years old. Youngest son Abe (played by Julian Grey) is about 14 years old. People who see this movie and have knowledge of Judeo-Christian history will notice right away how biblical these names are.

Isaiah is a “strong, silent type” who’s somewhat of an enigma. Jacob is a popular but brooding heartthrob at school. (Goofball witch Frankie has a mild crush on Jacob.) Abe seems to be the kindest and most sensitive of the three brothers, and he’s the only one of the brothers to attempt to befriend Lily. It’s strange that Helen and Adam would wait until move-in day for their children to meet each other for the first time, but there are stranger things that have happened in real life.

Meanwhile, although Adam isn’t overtly sexist, he is very much about male bonding and men’s rights. Living with two females in the house is quite an adjustment for him and his sons. (The mother of Adam’s sons is not seen or mentioned in the movie.) Adam spends a lot of time traveling to host male-only retreats, where he helps men get in touch with their masculinity and innermost feelings. Adam has a mantra that he instills in his sons and his followers: “Power is order.”

Lily’s mother Helen has a different view of power: She constantly tells Lily, “Your differences are your power.” It’s clear that Lily and Helen both know that Lily has supernatural powers, but Lily hasn’t been able to harness those powers for anything major that would fully expose her for being a witch. That is, until she joins the coven.

Adam has gotten notoriety for a book called “Hollowed Masculinity,” which basically preaches that men shouldn’t be afraid of or apologetic for being dominant leaders. One day, while Lily is getting to know the different rooms in her new home, she goes in the home’s study/library and sees the book. When she picks up the book, she drops it quickly, as if the book could’ve burned her. This movie is not subtle at all.

Just like in “The Craft,” there’s a school bully who gets put under a spell by the witches. In “The Craft: Legacy,” the bully’s name is Timmy (played by Nicholas Galitzine), and he happens to be Jacob’s best friend. Lily has a humiliating experience in her first day at the school, when she gets her menstrual period while she’s sitting down at a desk in class. Lily doesn’t know that she’s gotten her period until Timmy announces it and points out the blood on the floor to everyone in the class. “Did you drop something?” Timmy sneers. And then he cruelly adds, “It looks like a crime scene.”

A mortified Lily runs into a restroom and locks herself into a stall to clean up after herself. And she’s soon followed by Lourdes, Frankie and Tabby, who give her sympathy and tell Lily that Timmy has bullied them too. Tabby offers her gym shorts for Lily to wear, since Lily’s jeans are too bloody to put back on again. It’s a generous and kind gesture that goes a long way, because Lily ultimately befriends this trio.

Another big difference between “The Craft” and “The Craft: Legacy” is that the newcomer fourth witch joins the coven a lot quicker in “The Craft: Legacy.” Lily becomes a part of their group within a few days of knowing Lourdes, Frankie and Tabby. They begin to suspect that Lily’s a witch when Timmy taunts Lily again in the school hallway, and she’s able to throw Timmy up against a locker and make him fall down, just by using her mind. This incident puts both Timmy and Lily in detention.

While she’s in detention, Lily begins to hear the voices of the other witches talking to her in her mind. They tell her to meet them in a hallway restroom, and she does. And that’s how Lourdes, Frankie and Tabby are able to confirm that Lily is a witch too. Not long after that, all of four of them start doing spell experiments, such as levitating, before they decide to unleash their full powers. And just like in the first “Craft” movie, snakes and butterflies are in some scenes in the movie where supernatural things happen.

One of the frustrating things about “The Craft: Legacy” is that it doesn’t really expound on the unique powers that each witch has in this coven. Lourdes represents the north, with her power derived from the earth. Frankie’s power represents the east, with her power derived from air. Tabby’s power represents the south, with her power derived from fire. And to complete the circle, Lily’s power represents the west, with her power derived from water.

You would think that these specific powers would be incorporated more into the spells that they cast on people. But aside from some cutesy colors that swirl around when they chant, their unique powers are all talk and almost no action. There are lots of ways to cause witchcraft terror by using the earth, air, fire or water, but those avenues are not fully explored in this movie. Maybe the movie’s budget was too low for the visual effects that would be needed.

And speaking of visual effects, the witch characters in “The Craft: Legacy” mention being fans of the 2008 teen vampire film “Twilight” multiple times. And it’s somewhat ironic, because the much-ridiculed “sparkling vampire” aspects of “Twilight” get sort of a nod in “The Craft: Legacy,” in scenes where there are sparkly effects around the witches, most notably when Lily takes a bath in sparkly purple water.

It’s an aesthetic that’s more like “My Little Pony” instead of “Mistress of the Dark,” and it’s really hard to take “The Craft: Legacy” seriously as a horror movie at that point. There are scenes in the Disney movie “Maleficent” that are scarier than “The Craft: Legacy,” and that’s a major disappointment because Blumhouse movies shouldn’t skimp on the scares.

Another aspect of the film that’s dangled in front of viewers and never quite comes to fruition is that it’s mentioned fairly early on that the foursome coven will get to enact four stages of their full powers: Stage One is telekinesis. Stage Two is mind infiltration. Stage Four is shapeshifting. Frankie tells Lily that Stage Three will be revealed later. But that reveal is another big disappointment. And the shapeshifting (which was used to great effect in the 1996 “Craft” movie) becomes an abandoned idea for the witches in “The Craft: Legacy.”

Whereas the original “Craft” movie had the over-the-top, unhinged performance of Balk as the “loose cannon” witch of the group, there is no such unpredictable personality in this “Craft: Legacy” coven. In fact, all of the witches in this coven are extremely cautious of not going too far to hurt people. If you can believe it, these witches are too politically correct, which doesn’t really work in a story that’s supposed to be about teen witches who want to get revenge on people who’ve tormented them.

Instead of a variety of individual spells that made the original “Craft” movie entertaining to watch, the story of “The Craft: Legacy” focuses on one big group spell, which they put on Timmy. After the spell, he goes from being a sexist bully to a “woke” guy who’s a walking stereotype of an uber-sensitive, progressive liberal. While that mindset might be scary to people on certain ends of the political spectrum, this movie should have been more about horror instead of the political leanings of people who aren’t even old enough to vote.

“The Craft” had a spell put on the class bully so that he would be lovesick over the newbie witch. “The Craft: Legacy” goes one step further and makes the reformed bully not only a potential love interest for the newbie witch (Lily), but he also becomes a feminist who would rather pal around with all four of the witches than hang out with his male buddies. It’s the movie’s way of saying that men can be feminists too, but the message ultimately isn’t that great if the only way a male in this story becomes an “enlightened” feminist is if he’s “tricked” into it by a witch’s spell.

Galitzine is quite good in his role as Timmy, who goes through this drastic personality change. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Timmy and his four new gal pals hang out together and confess some of their biggest secrets. Timmy’s biggest secret is one of the movie’s few major surprises. It’s an emotional scene, but it’s completely different from the “jokey teen antics” tone that the movie was going for in the first half of the film.

After Timmy’s secret is revealed, things take a dark turn in the movie, which would’ve benefited from a dark tone from the beginning. But by the time the big showdown happens at the end of the movie, there are two major plot holes that just can’t redeem this disappointing film.

The first major plot hole involves a “bound spell” that prevents a witch or witches from casting any more spells to do harm. And yet during the big showdown, this “bound spell” is completely forgotten in the plot, as if it never happened. The second big plot hole involves the reveal of the chief villain, who should have several allies in the movie’s climactic showdown, but the villain inexplicably and strangely is the only adversary in this big fight.

And this crucial action sequence in the movie is more talk than suspenseful action. The action just brings more sparkles instead of true terror. There are other parts of the movie that are even more tedious and might induce boredom or the urge to go to sleep.

There’s a “surprise” cameo at the end of the film that isn’t much of a surprise. (And if people really want to know who does this cameo, it’s not a secret, because this person’s name is in the Internet Movie Database list of cast members for “The Craft: Legacy.“) The cameo isn’t that big of a deal because this person does not speak any lines in the movie and is only seen in the last few seconds of the film.

“The Craft: Legacy” seems to have had the right intentions when it was conceived as an updated version of “The Craft.” But somewhere along the way, the filmmakers made the mistake of diminishing the horror of the original “Craft” movie and making “The Craft: Legacy” more of a sparkly teen soap opera.

Columbia Pictures released “The Craft: Legacy” on digital and VOD October 28, 2020.

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