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Monday, January 23, 2017

Hocus Pocus

Continuing my witch film series, I turn to 1993's Hocus Pocus, Disney's take on witches. It's intermittently amusing and relatively harmless, with the laughs mostly aimed at tweens, with some scares for young children, but not much for adults accept an absolutely committed performance by Bette Midler.

Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker are three sisters who live in Salem during the bad time, 1693. They are captured and hung for stealing children and sucking the life essence out of them to keep them young. The older brother of one these kids is turned into a cat, and also made immortal. He's tried to keep anyone from resurrecting the sisters.

In 1993, a new kid in town (Omri Katz) tries to impress a girl he's crushing on (Vinessa Shaw), and lights the black candle that brings the sisters back to life (on Halloween, no less). The comedy comes from them adjusting to modern life (one of them rides a vacuum cleaner) and trying to catch Katz's little sister (Thora Birch, six years before American Beauty) so they don't turn to dust at dawn.

So we get a lot of the witches, a kind of female Three Stooges, chasing the kids but being constantly outwitted. Midler, the leader (or Moe), gives an inspired performance, with buck teeth and that red fright wig hair. Najimy is kind of like Curly--she's a doofus, but she can smell a child. Parker is dim and boy-crazy (and blonde).

There are a few gags that are promising but don't go anywhere. At a party for adults, Midler puts a spell on them that they will dance until they are dead, but we only get one more shot of them. Doug Jones plays a revived cadaver who looks a bit like Edward Scissorhands. The one bit I laughed at was Garry Marshall as a man wearing a devil costume--the sisters think he is actually Satan. Penny Marshall plays his exasperated wife.

Hocus Pocus is competent children's entertainment but nothing terribly special.

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