Turn Back the Clock

Hocus Pocus

Distributed By: Buena Vista Pictures

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                If you are like me, you prepare for Halloween by watching some of your favorite Halloween films.  You may embark on an all-day horror binge.  For me, there are certain staples for Halloween that I must see by the special date: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Hocus Pocus.  Let me tell you a bit about Hocus Pocus:

                On October 31, 1693, Thackery Binx (Sean Murray) witnesses his little sister Emily lured away to the cottage of the Sanderson sisters, three witches who have captured the essence of Emily’s youth to regain their own.  Thackery confronts them, but not before his sister is killed.  He, himself, is turned transformed into an immortal black cat, doomed to roam the world forever haunted by the guilt of being unable to save his sister.  The witches are captured and hanged, but one final spell is cast, promising the resurrection of the Sanderson sisters on All Hallows Eve during a full moon if any virgin should light the Black Flame Candle.  Thackery stands guard to prevent this from happening.

                Three hundred years later, Max Dennison (Omri Katz) and his family move from Los Angeles to Salem, Massachusetts.  Max and his sister Dani (Thora Birch) are trying to fit in with the other kids in this unfamiliar town, but Max isn’t having much luck, finding himself pitted against the nieghborhoodl bully (Larry Bagby) on his first day.  But things aren’t all bad – he meets fellow classmate Allison (Vinessa Shaw), an attractive girl whose family owns the Sanderson cottage and has turned it into a museum.  When Max takes Dani to Allison’s house to trick-or-treat, they find themselves taking a tour of the cottage.

                Unfortunately, Max lights the Black Flame Candle, resurrecting Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary Sanderson (Kathy Najimy) who now plan to steal the souls of all of Salem’s children thereby staying youthful looking forever.  With help from Thackery, Max, Allison and Dani escape the cottage with Winifred's spellbook.  Now, it becomes a race against time to prevent the Sanderson sisters from getting their hands on that book and completing the spell that will destroy all the children of Salem.  They only have to hang in there until the sun rises, but a lot can happen until then…dead rising, enchanted partygoers, child-napping and more!

                Yes, this is a kid’s movie, but so what?!  I must admit, I had never seen the movie until ten years ago when I mentioned to my friend that I had never seen Hocus Pocus before, I heard, “WHAAAAT??!!!”  I was told I must watch it and thus was my indoctrination into Hocus Pocus fandom.  Of course, I must admit that I wasn’t an immediate fan, but after a couple of times watching this film and seeing the adult humor mixed in with the kiddy stuff, I was hooked. 

                Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy are absolutely hilarious as the Sanderson sisters.  Bette basically steals the show, but Kath Najimy is as funny as ever and, having never liked Sarah Jessica Parker’s acting much, I was pleasantly surprised by her performance in this film.  I loved the contentious banter between the three witches and the sister rivalry.  I also loved watching the witches get used to modern times and scary things like fire trucks.  Hilarious!  Omri Katz and Vinessa Shaw are believable as the new kid in town trying to impress an established town teen who just happens to be quite the looker.  Thora Birch is downright annoying as Dani…you actually may find yourself wanting to reach through the television and smack her every once in a while.  That doesn’t mean her performance is bad – after all, she IS supposed to be the annoying little sister that big brother realizes means everything to him.  I find it hilarious that big time NCIS actor Sean Murray was Zacahary Binx in this film.  Wow, how far we have come!  I loved the cat…despite the fact that you could tell it wasn’t always real.

                Sure, there are parts of the film that may seem cheesy – it’s an old-fashioned Disney film, after all.  But the well-meaning themes regarding loving your family and doing everything you can to protect them are important in this day and age.  So are the nods toward the negative effects of bullying and the importance of being yourself.  One can’t help but fall in love with Hocus Pocus.  Each time I watch it, I find myself laughing.  It’s a nice venture away from the holiday horror-fest that takes place this time of year.  That’s why Hocus Pocus has become a holiday staple in my home.


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