Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996) / Comedy-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG for mild rude humor
Running time: 90 min.
Cast: Melissa Joan Hart, Sherry Miller, Charlene Fernetz, Michelle Beaudoin, Ryan Reynolds, Tobias Mehler, Lalainia Lindbjerg
Director: Tibor Takacs
Screenplay: Barney Cohen, Kathryn Wallack, Nicholas Factor
Melissa Joan Hart (The Specials, Drive Me Crazy) stars as a normal teenage girl being raised by her aunts, Sabrina, who soon discovers that she isn't as normal as she once thought. With some concentration and a few choice words, she can make magical things happen. Her aunts reveal that she is emerging in her continuation of a family of witches, just like them and Sabrina's absent mother and father. On her 16th birthday, she is left a spell book that begins her life of magic and mayhem. No longer anyone's patsy, she can scrap with the biggest of the bullies, but one catch in her powers causes her trouble, as she tries to use her gifts to bag the school's handsomest jock, Seth (Reynolds, Finder's Fee). Not allowed to cast spells for love, she has a hard time resisting the urge, and should things not pan out, she may suffer a fate as a witch's familiar if she succeeds.
This Archie Comics creation was given the small screen treatment in a standalone film that would eventually lead to a long-running sitcom TV series later the same year, although the ongoing series would make significant changes (names, places, and personalities differ). There's not much of a plot to speak of, save for a series of cute scenes that see Sabrina exploring her powers. As a pilot for a TV series, this sort of vacuous introduction could be forgivable with more interesting events down the road. As a story unto itself, it's not worth watching unless you're a die-hard fan of innocuous teenage fare.
Other than the fact that its rating success would result in a modestly popular show aimed at young girls, as well as an early role for future big screen star Ryan Reynolds, Sabrina the Teenage Witch is instantly forgettable fluff that is only enjoyable for its cheesy, inoffensive qualities, and awful in most other respects. Fans of the TV show may consider this a quaint curiosity, though it differs in too many ways to consider it a pilot episode. Outside of this, it's an insubstantial time waster that's too harmless to hate, and too disposable to care much about.
©2008 Vince Leo