I first saw Teen Witch on a rainy afternoon when I was 14-years-old. It had been hyped all week as the feature film on UPN’s ‘Disney Afternoon.’ Being a lonely kid obsessed with both The Craft and Sabrina the Teenage Witch — I’d taken out every book on witchcraft at the nearest public library in an attempt to emulate my icons, become popular, and control the weather, although all I managed to do was make myself seem somehow even creepier — I knew that I’d love it. I just didn’t know how much.
I watched the VHS I made of the film countless times before it was (somehow) sold at a garage sale. Years later, when I was 22 and working at a video store, I was forced to take the DVD home because customers complained that I played it too often (read: on repeat, 4 times every Saturday night) and that I would stop doing my job — no matter how long the line was — to pause the movie and offer my commentary. I did the same when dating (it was sort of a litmus test for who could stand me) (although I ended up marrying someone who doesn’t understand my fascination with the film) and when I started writing professionally, friends would joke that I would have reached the apex of my career if I ever got to speak to Robyn Lively (the titular Teen Witch herself!) about the film. It feels almost silly to say this, but they weren’t wrong.
There’s no rhyme or reason as to why Teen Witch is still such a big hit. Perhaps it’s because it defies any sort of labeling (is it a musical? a comedy? Make-over wish fulfillment with fantasy elements?) and doesn’t actually feel like it’s an ’80s film, even though it was created in 1989 and literally throws every trope from that era — from tutus, to big hair, to Zelda Rubinstein, to that one big scene at prom (or homecoming, it’s never clear) — at the wall in what seems like the decade fiercely holding onto itself as time marches on into a new era. Or perhaps it’s because the film is so unbelievably cheesy, and so painfully sincere that you can’t help but love every technicolor second of this beautiful mess of a romance (which literally has no meaningful ending). And there are so many questions left unanswered! Even after hundreds of viewings of this thing, there are still things even the most ardent enthusiasts (me, you, everyone you know) need to know!
It turns out that Lively — who you’ve seen everywhere after Teen Witch — is just as big a fan of the film as the rest of us, and she happily spoke to me about everything about the film, from its enduring legacy, to the music, to the dilemmas we’ve all had about the film’s internal logic.
And you know what? Just like the film itself, it was f*cking magic.