‘The Craft: Legacy’ review: woke, witchy reboot casts an unconvincing spell

Zoe Lister-Jones' take on the '90s cult classic updates an old story with fresh ideas

Given Hollywood’s love of reprising old stories, filmmakers these days are faced with one big challenge – how do you remake a beloved cult classic for a new audience without alienating the original fanbase? In the case of Zoe Lister-Jones’ The Craft: Legacy, the answer is not to recreate the first movie, but build a modern continuation of the tale.

It’s a smart move. Although the 21st Century take on 1996’s The Craft – required viewing for any wannabe teen witch – will still be compared to the original, positioning it as a follow-up allows it to take its own form and tell its own story. Some elements remain the same – four high-schoolers joining forces against trash boys, the iconic “We are the weirdos, mister” retort – but this sequel is much softer than its predecessor.

Lily (played by Cailee Spaeny) has just had her life uprooted by her mum Helen (Michelle Monaghan) moving them across the country to shack up with her new partner Adam (David Duchovny) and his three teen sons. Her expectations for the new school are low – when Helen suggests she might make some new friends, she notes that would imply she had old ones – but a humiliating moment on her first day brings three outcasts who change everything into her life.

This new friendship is a win for both sides. Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Tabby (Lovie Simone) and Frankie (Gideon Adlon) have been desperately trying and failing to make their after-school spells work, leading them to the conclusion they need a fourth witch to complete their circle. When they spy Lily wearing a curious necklace, they usher her into their coven and give things another go. Instantly, they’re able to send telepathic messages, move objects (and people) with their minds, and freeze time. Baby steps complete, they soon graduate onto more ambitious sorcery.

The Craft: Legacy
‘The Craft: Legacy’ is in UK cinemas now. Credit: Sony

Here is where the reboot shows major differences to its source material. In The Craft, the teen hexers make their racist peers’ hair fall out and cause abusive stepfathers to die, but this time the witches use their powers in gentler ways. They remedy toxic masculinity by casting a spell to turn the offending student into their “highest self” and are excited to find their subject now woke, ruminations on the race and gender politics of Princess Nokia spilling out of his mouth instead of cruel misogyny.

The original film relied heavily on special effects, but The Craft: Legacy eschews visual gimmickry for character development. There are pros and cons to this – the feminist message at its core doesn’t get as swamped as it did first time around, but the witchcraft feels like it takes a backseat in places. The results are hit-and-miss, leaving a film that’s entertaining and easy to watch, but doesn’t quite put you under its spell.

Details

  • Director: Zoe Lister-Jones
  • Starring: Cailee Spaeny, Zoey Luna, Lovie Simone
  • Release date: October 28 (UK cinemas)
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