The Good Witch’s Charm (DVD)

“Even people different from us have something to offer.”

By the time a series gets to five movies things can get a bit stale. And after the turn The Good Witch’s Family took I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from its successor and fifth movie in question, The Good Witch’s Charm. However I am pleasantly surprised and can start off by giving you three reasons I recommend The Good Witch’s Charm: the acting, the return to a successful formula, and the evolution of the characters.

The Good Witch’s Charm, the fifth entry in The Good Witch franchise, finds a return to form. In what made The Good Witch so popular, we once again track the trials and tribulations of all the members of the Russell family. While our favorite good witch is the epicenter of the story, it’s the interweaving of all the plots forming the strong backbone of the film, making this one of the more entertaining sequels thus far.

Returning once again to the town of Middleton, we check in with our favorite bewitching resident, Cassandra “Cassie” Nightingale Russell (Catherine Bell, JAG). We discover she’s dealing with juggling newborn teething daughter Grace and her new part-time job as town Mayor. As if that wasn’t enough, Cassie is surprised by the reappearance of her foster mother, Doris (Janet-Laine Green, Seeing Things). Doris has some definite ideas about how things are done and no compunction about broadcasting them — loudly and without regard for whether or not anyone wants to hear. For instance, she insists on calling Cassie “Sue Ellen” and asking if she’s still involved with that “magic nonsense.” So an overwhelmed Cassie’s idea for taking the entire family on a well-earned vacation is definitely needed, but may not be in the cards due to the troubles the rest of the family is suffering.

Lori (Hannah Endicott-Douglas, The Good Witch’s Gift) is set up to take the fall for a recent rash of robberies committed by her new “friends,” while Brandon (Matthew Knight, My Babysitter’s a Vampire) struggles to find a way to get home in time for the family vacation after his final project’s computer files become corrupted and the extra time means he’s stranded at college. Grandpa George (Peter MacNeill, A History of Violence) struggles with mortality and feelings of uselessness when one of his dearest friends passes away. Jake (Chris Potter, Heartland) has to walk a tightrope, balancing taking on extra shifts to compensate for the robberies Lori’s accused of with having time for his family.

Middleton has been chosen as one of North America’s Ten Most Charming Towns, thanks to relentless campaigning by Martha (Catherine Disher, Forever Knight). But Martha is in it to get publicity for her new shop, “Martha’s Sweet Beginnings”, and when a video of what appears to be Cassie literally disappearing into thin air surfaces and steals her thunder, it raises Martha’s ire. It also makes her the perfect target for Henry Kael (Geordie Johnson, Largo Winch), the journalist who was originally in town to blog about the “Charming” competition. Once Cassie’s video goes viral Kael becomes fixated on Cassie and smells big numbers, becoming bound and determined to print an unfavorable piece of journalism centered on our favorite spell caster. Martha and Doris become Henry’s unwitting sources, adding fuel to the fire and unintentionally painting Cassie as a con artist. It will take Cassie’s even demeanor and belief things are going to work out to weather the storm which has descended on both Middleton and her life.

The Good Witch’s Charm once again returns to its roots, namely focusing on Cassie and the rest of the Russell clan. I’ve always appreciated the ability to find a way to bring the differing generations together with problems everyone can relate to, and this film is one of the better examples of that achievement. But more than that, what I find refreshing is the character growth, as we can chart the varying stages of life each character is navigating. It’s going to sound contradictory when I say The Good Witch’s Charm can be viewed as a stand-alone movie, but it’s the truth. There’s enough backstory given through the Doris and Henry subplots to act as a primer for the uninitiated. The character growth in question is only evident to those who have been faithfully following the series. You can jump into The Good Witch series here, but you’ll miss out on how the relationships showcased were formed. And since the relationships are the driving force behind the success of the series it would be a shame to deprive yourself of witnessing their metamorphoses chronologically.

Not to say there aren’t some hokey moments mixed in, because there are, and some of the dialogue and plot points get a bit mired down in too-obvious and a bit far-fetched, respectively. For instance, when George hears of his friend Tommy’s passing, his girlfriend, Gwen (Elizabeth Lennie, Weirdsville), says “he was a good friend of yours.” George’s reaction to the news already told us this was someone special to him. A better alternative would have been to have George explain to Gwen who Tommy was, instead of the clunky bit of expository dialogue we get. And in terms of the “really?” of the plot when the video of Cassie’s “disappearance” makes its rounds it’s hard to believe people would start flocking to Middleton to meet her. Anyone who investigates the video is able to tell something is going on aside from the disappearance. Especially in this day and age being asked to believe people aren’t tech-savvy enough to look into the effect and see it for what it is pushes my suspension of disbelief.

But those qualms are fleeting at best. The Good Witch’s Charm is one of the better offerings in The Good Witch canon. I continue to love Catherine Bell as Cassie and the rest of the cast really hold their own and aren’t just there to prop up Bell. The story is crafted around distinct issues the characters face based on where they are in life, and aren’t contrived just to get us from point A to point B. Also, we finally have Jake come around to the idea his wife is a bit magical, an acceptance I’ve waited years on.

The franchise has at least two more movies as well as a television series following The Good Witch’s Charm so I’m clearly not the only one who thinks the filmmakers have indeed woven a spell upon the audience. It earns a recommendation for fans of the series and can also serve as an entry point for the novice, if you’re okay with going back to the earlier movies later.

As with the other entries in The Good Witch series, the technical specs can be a bit less than perfect. Considering the video transfer, we once again are offered a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a few issues. The focus continues to be soft in spots, leading to a bit of pixilation here and there. The white levels approach blow out ranges but never transcend the boundaries while the blacks are consistent. The audio, a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, remains the strongest of the pair with clear, dependable levels. There are no special features.

Admittedly some of the plot points feel a bit contrived and some of the dialogue hokey, but The Good Witch’s Charm is a strong entry in the series. Including all the Russell family members and dealing with real-world as opposed to magical problems along with the talents of the ever-engaging Catherine Bell and company, conspires to produce a family film with warmth, and as always…a bit of magic.

THE VERDICT

Still charming.

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Here are the top ten things we know: 1) She lives in Ohio 2) She is MWOC unless you count her two dogs 3) Believes Avatar was NOT the greatest movie ever made 4) Operates on a primarily nocturnal basis 5) Wants to write the screenplay for the movie adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle 6) Watches a variety of shows on television including, but not limited to: Castle, @midnight, Face Off, Sherlock and Whose Line is it Anyway? 7) Does not believe anyone will actually read this besides the editor (hello, Editor!) 8) Has attended more than one N*SYNC concert in her lifetime but only one NKOTB concert 9) Was in a car crash that would have killed her had she not been wearing her seat belt 10) Is in the process of catching up on Supernatural (incidentally would possibly leave her husband for either of the Winchester Brothers depending on the episode in question) and the bonus! 11) Enjoys reading, writing, laying on the beach (long walks tire her out) and assorted snack foods like frozen M&M's.
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