Consider me the one who stands awkwardly in a crowd of people laughing, joking, and having a good time. Hocus Pocus, a film which has gone on to be something of a cult classic, gaining replay countless times around Halloween and constantly coming up in the conversation around this time of year, to me, was a very strange, uncomfortable movie experience, mainly because of all the hocus and the pocus, none of it memorable or quite fun.
This is a film of many strong stars, various special effects, and stylistic trademarks, however, they are put in a black cauldron and are not stirred properly, if at all. There's smoke boiling all over the top of the cauldron, but what goes on inside of it is nothing shy of uneventful. If anything, the film should be memorialized as a Disney film that tried to at least do something different, creating a darker, more tween-oriented story than their previous films. We open in Salem, Massachusetts, around 1693, where we meet the three Sanderson witches, Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), who we learn prey on young children. Their goal is to suck the lives purely out of them to be able to practice witchcraft, but their plan is failed when they are killed by an angry mob of townfolk. Before dying, however, the witches enact a spell which will bring them back to life if a virgin were to light a specific candle on All Hallows' Eve.
Fast-forward three hundred years later, on October 31, 1993, and we have our subjects; Max Dennison (Omri Katz), a Los Angeles native who is upset with having to move to Salem, where he lacks any friends and has become the social pariah of the school. Reluctantly agreeing to take his annoying little sister, Dani (Thora Birch) trick-or-treating, he stumbles upon the house of his crush named Allison, played by Vinessa Shaw. Out of pure curiosity, and because they are filled with the inconsequential Halloween feeling, they venture out to an abandoned museum, where Max will light the candle naively and resurrect the Sanderson sisters, effectively establishing that the rumor all these years was true and that witches do in fact haunt the town of Salem.
The remainder of the film is chaotic to say the least; a cockamamie blend of a third-rate farce, a distorted premise, drastically unpleasant characters, lame jokes, and a ton of special effects which, more often than not, consume the screen in a murky fashion. While punctuated with scenes providing some entertainment, there are a whole lot of dry spots that plague Hocus Pocus, many of them being with the humans rather than the witches.
Yet the Sanderson sisters, the characters which the movie is built around, are not given much interesting to do. They are stereotypical witch archetypes, played by character actors clearly sagacious and intelligent enough to choose better roles. Bette Midler, while being the most entertaining, is still buried under a plethora of makeup which can't disguise her character's lack of soul and wit, and Najimy and Parker's characters might as well be low-rent versions of Larry and Curly of The Three Stooges.
There's an audience for a film like this, which has already been established by the mention and existence of a cult. If only I were able to belong to that noble group. Hocus Pocus pleased me with its ambition and versatility, yet bored me with its listless agenda. It favors chaos over pacing, special effects over characters, and shells over identifiable people. And considering that there are many more films aimed at this same market of tween obscurity, that pack stronger morals and more substance, and there are some too that just have the "let's have fun" message, to pick up and rent Hocus Pocus for the twelfth time on Halloween is like being a witch who continuously haunts the same town every year. Don't you want to try and branch out?
Starring: Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Omri Katz, Thora Birch, and Vinessa Shaw. Directed by: Kenny Ortega.
4 out of 10 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.