As a ’90s social misfit trying to find her place in the clone like halls of my suburban school, Teen Witch spoke to me. I was as narrow as a string bean, with a closet full of clothes appropriate for my age. Sounds real ungrateful, I know–and in retrospect, I’m so appreciative of my parents for making sure I didn’t grow up fast–but when you’re thirteen and surrounded by popular girls in jean mini skirts and halter tops, this stuff feels like the end of the world. So dramatic. We were living in the age Britney, damnit, and every girl wanted to look like her. But for those of us who didn’t–the flat chested, the poofy-haired, the full figured, the brace faces, the brains, the introverts, the brunettes and red heads–we became outsiders looking in. Just like the subject of the 1989 cult classic Teen Witch, Louise.
Louise first stole my heart on a random evening of Disney Channel binging. Disney Channel was my entire life. They had a new original movie each month, Bug Juice made me want to go to camp, Lizzie McGuire was my best friend and Shia Labeouf as Louis Stevens was bae–yes, I saw the hottie potential even then. I also imagined, and acted out my own “Express Yourself” commercial. Gah! Please tell me you all remember those. If you don’t, allow me to refresh your memory with this sunshine like blast from the past.
All that I referenced above carried a similar aesthetic and theme. So when Disney Channel picked up Teen Witch in its rotation, I was extremely intrigued. I was hooked within the first few minutes. It had everything I loved about ’80s musicals and more. Most importantly, the struggles and heart of its heroine outcast struck a chord with me. An ordinary girl, who longs to no longer be overlooked, becomes extraordinary. She learns she is a witch, like her ancestors before her, and in the process, summons the changes she’s dreamed of for her life. But the beauty of Teen Witch exceeds the perceived shallowness of Louise’s teen desires. It’s the power of the lesson she learns, that she was always extraordinary.
Oh and yes, there are a number of other components which make Teen Witch both memorable and enjoyable. We’ve rounded up our favorite spellbinding moments from the film to celebrate its timeless impact. Reminisce with us if you’d like, we can already hear the intro song, “Never Gonna Be the Same Again” in our heads.
With all of these amazing and catchy ’80s tracks, it’s hard to believe an official soundtrack never accompanied the film. I will never forgive whoever is responsible for that. From the prissy “I Like Boys” to “Popular Girl” to the infamous “Top That,” there isn’t one song I wouldn’t turn up and jam out to during my commute to and from work. They each give life for so many reasons. The choreography is perfect and shameless, no matter how embarrassed or cheesy the actors while performing them. These are songs and scenes so many have acted out in the privacy of their rooms as well as the public–I’m looking at you Blake Lively. It seems no one is immune to the magic of the film’s musical moments.
Seriously, get into the toothy smiles, voluminous hair and pointed toes. These girls were serving us jazz funk moves on a platter.
Louise’s transformative scene, where she debuts her new image and killer wardrobe. The song is the perfect match to any misfit’s collage like dream scenario.
There are no words to describe the joy I hold in my heart for “Top That.” It’s just so many things. Cheesy, for sure, of course, but that in no way is a bad thing. Not in this instance. If anything, this song cemented my allegiance to the film because Polly became her own version of MC Lyte in .5 seconds. Yes, thanks to Louise and her powers, however, the message mimicked that of Louise’s moral take away, Polly always had beast mode inside of her.
Robin Lively on the actor’s feelings towards “Top That”:
Mandy [Ingber, who played Polly] and Noah [Blake, who played Rhet] were dreading the infamous “Top That” song. They thought it was the stupidest thing ever. They hated it. In the end, they just decided to have fun with it, and, in retrospect, it’s awesome. But they were not into it, which is so funny because it turned out to be one of the most amazing and popular scenes in the whole movie. (Buzzfeed)
Remember when I said Blake Lively is a huge fan of her sister’s work in Teen Witch? It’s a real thing, and so adorable. I would definitely feel the same way if my older sibling was Robin Lively. So it comes as no surprise that Robin and her brother decided to gift Blake with a glamorous recreation of this number during her nuptials to Ryan Reynolds.
“Both my younger sister and brother [Eric Lively] are huge fans of the movie — they geek out on me all the time. So Eric and I decided to do this at her wedding, and, oh my gosh, when the music came on, she just about dropped to the floor. I wish I could have captured that moment, but I’ll never forget it. I had a little tube dress and tutu, and Eric and I did the whole thing. We had dance rehearsals where we’d watch the movie and press pause and play and pause and play, trying to get the moves down perfectly. That whole intricate hand thing didn’t come back to me as naturally as I thought. We eventually figured it out.”
Be it shoulder pads, peplum, pink casual fits, jean vests etc. Louise in her post makeover glory was a hit. She looked like how I felt during my first week of school. Like she kept her new fits untouched until the launch of the school year and laid out her outfits at the foot of her bed the night before each day. She also carried herself in such a collegiate sweetheart way, which is what I admired most about her. It didn’t matter why she wanted the clothes because the clothes never ended up wearing her. Although finally popular, she was still Louise Miller, brains and beauty.
Robin on the mastermind behind Louise’s fashion:
“This is actually something no one knows, but my mom was really the one who created the entire style for Teen Witch. I’m dead serious. She was super involved, and is super creative, so I wore a lot of my actual clothes in the movie. Truly, Louise was my mom’s vision. She really created an iconic character.” (Buzzfeed)
I was obsessed with Shana because she was such a cool faux ’80s pop star, somewhere between Madonna and Sheila E. She was the reason Louise was able to upgrade her fashion and the inspiration for her look. And her breathy and eager voice when she hands over her infamous jean jacket is something I still mimic to this day. Shana was the epitome of cool.
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Louise’s brother, Richie, suffer when she turned him into a dog. He more than deserved it. He was rude and disgusting. Ugh, I still can’t get the image of him squishing his fingers into pizza dough out of my mind. He also had one of the most creepy and annoying voices. I don’t know how anyone in the Miller household slept a wink with him in it.
Then of course, there’s Louise’s obnoxious school dance date–who did not adhere to the word ‘no’. I didn’t give not one heck when he disappeared and I was sure happy no one else did.
Who could forget Louise’s bully of a teacher? He mortified her by reading her private writings about her school crush,Brad. She left her finest trick in the book for him by using a VooDoo doll to send him stripping through class and strolling through the car wash–thanks to Richie and Louise’ mother.
I love the scenes where Louise shows how crazy for Brad she is. Especially since it’s a rarity–to this extent–in teen films. Only thing that comes close enough is probably Helga’s love for Arnold in Hey Arnold! But there was something truly authentic and realistic about the actor’s chemistry. At first, I chalked it up to how relatable the scenes were. Then, thanks to Buzzfeed, I found out heart eyes did exist for Robin Lively.
“I had such a crush on him, but he (Dan who played Brad) was the ladies’ man on set. He was super-flirty and so cute, but I played him so well. I had game at that age, I don’t even know how.
“Dan and Lisa [Fuller, who played Randa] are married and they have a son, who is in his twenties. They dated while making the movie and got married shortly after the movie wrapped. I was heartbroken, but I still went to their wedding. Brad and Randa really lived happily ever after.”
“Omni suminaro suminaro wa wan!”
Like many of the witch films and shows of the past, Teen Witch‘s spells are pop culture phenomenons. It didn’t matter if the spells were real or not–I’m happy they weren’t; I said them so many times around the house, who knows what would’ve happened if they were. What matters is, it felt like it–which incorporated an essential layer of worldbuilding to Louise’s story. We didn’t need history lessons in length about witches, we created our own mythos in our minds, thanks to Madame Serena.