The Craft: Legacy certainly has its heart in the right place, but the effort ultimately amounts to little more than superficial virtue signaling.
The easiest observation to make about The Craft: Legacy, the reboot/sequel to 1996 cult favorite The Craft, is that it is woke. Not just casually woke, but like it got up at 5:30 AM, took a cold shower, downed seven espressos, and still managed to find the time to run eight miles and plan a neighborhood rummage sale. In its brief moments of silence, Elizabeth Banks’ 2019 Charlie’s Angels reboot can be heard saying, “OK, let’s take it down a notch.” Writer-director Zoe Lister-Jones goes out of her way to make sure that this is not your mama’s Craft, for both better and worse, and frankly a new treatment of this material isn’t the outright heresy the original’s rabid fans might suggest. Rose-colored glasses tend to obscure the fact that the 1996 version pays only lip service to feminism, eager as it is to turn its quartet of strong-willed women against one another, right up to its bitter end. Perhaps that is to be expected of both the time period in which it was made and the fact that it was written and directed exclusively by men, as unflattering as that might be to observe.
There’s a welcome female sensibility and perspective to this new version, which does away with the original’s division of women and instead acts an ode to sisterhood where unity breeds strength. The problem is that most of it is so on-the-nose as to induce snickering. An embarrassing moment involving menstruation proves the inciting incident that brings together new high school student Lily (Cailee Spaeny) with the witchy trio of Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Tabby (Lovie Simone), and Lourdes (Zoey Luna). Within literally minutes, the foursome has harnessed their powers and are doing all sorts of things like stopping time and floating mid-air. What’s immediately missing, then, is any sense of discovery, the excitement of finding and harnessing unknown power. There’s nothing here like the light as a feather, stiff as a board scene from the original; a montage is all it takes in The Craft: Legacy, rushing forward with unnecessary abandon. Aside from Lily, none of the girls are even given anything resembling a personality, which is deeply ironic given the films’ ostensible message of individualism and equality. Elsewhere, casting a transgender actress (Luna) and refusing to explicitly exoticize it is refreshing and admirable, but making that her only character trait is more than a little problematic.
And then there’s Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine), a portrait of toxic teen masculinity run amok, and the focus of much of the film’s runtime. The girls put a spell on Timmy that turns him into a sensitive, Princess Nokia-loving champion of women’s rights; it’s funny in theory, but much less so in execution, simply trading in one broad stereotype for another. There’s actually one truly affecting moment involving a confession made by Timmy during a game of “Two Truths-One Lie” that hints at the film Legacy could have been was it not so lazy. And none of this is helped by the fact that the movie doesn’t introduce anything resembling conflict until the 55-minute mark, and then proceeds to do nothing more than trade in one plot revelation after another for the next 30 minutes. Little of it makes any sense, especially a subplot involving Lily’s future stepfather (David Duchovny), a man who literally wrote the book on modern male masculinity, just in case any viewer out there was too stupid to pick up on subtlety. Lister-Jones clearly has her heart in the right place when it comes to refashioning Legacy, and the attempt is commendable, but Hollywood has now tried and failed twice. It’s time to move on. In that sense, the cliffhanger ending certainly instills more fear than hope.