Halloween Nostalgia Conjures More Groans than Magic in "Hocus Pocus" Review

While movies centered on some holidays are a dime a dozen, finding classics related to Halloween can prove challenging. Unless you subscribe to the idea that all scary movies, creature features, or slasher flicks are inherently of the Halloween spirit, the ugly truth is that this particular holiday has been neglected in cinematic representation. Of the few that exist, the silly but harmless 90s movie Hocus Pocus, helmed by Kenny Ortega (the man who would later direct Disney’s uber-hit High School Musical series) and starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker, remains a flawed but beloved classic for those who grew up with it. Objectively it’s nothing special, but if viewed through the rosy glasses of nostalgia, it has just enough tepid fish-out-of-water jokes to make it bearable.

Discovered by the townsfolk of Salem, Massachusetts as the witches they are, the three Sanderson sisters (Midler, Parker & Kathy Najimy) are hung for witchcraft, but not before reciting an incantation that will revive them three centuries later and turning a boy, who failed to thwart his sister’s death at their hands, into a cat. Jump ahead to the 1990s and Max Dennison (Omri Katz) accidentally revives the Sandersons after wandering into their old house while on a tour with his young sister (Thora Birch) and his crush (Vinessa Shaw). With their newfound life, the witches set out to complete the goal their deaths interrupted: to harvest the youth of children in order to grant themselves eternal life.

The comedy that unfolds as the witches adapt to the modern age has some merit, but it was stale in its theatrical run and is only worse now. Of course, the entire film has to be taken with a huge pile of salt considering Midler, Parker, and Najimy as well as a few teenage bullies play their parts so over the top as to be awkward when set side-by-side with the three child protagonists who by comparison show a measure of restraint. It’s as if Director Ortega couldn’t decide what tone he wanted from his second film, which seems odd when you consider his first film, Newsies, was rather consistent.

Unless you’re willing to give Hocus Pocus the benefit of the doubt, it’s too obnoxious to stomach for older audiences, but if you’re willing to forgive quite a bit, it can still be a little bit of fun.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

There are none, but the set does include the film on Blu-ray and DVD.

"Hocus Pocus" is on sale September 4, 2012 and is rated PG. Children & Family, Comedy. Directed by Kenny Ortega. Written by Mick Garris, Neil Cuthbert. Starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thora Birch, Vinessa Shaw, Kathy Najimy, Omri Katz.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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