Hocus Pocus celebrates it's 20th Anniversary this year. The Disney hysterical and spooky movie starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker, tells the tale of three wicked sisters who brought back to do more terrible deeds.
However, is this still a hilarious childhood romp or is it just as dead now as it was back then? Hayley and Robbie fight it out....
Hocus Pocus is, absolutely, a product of the 90's. Directed by High School Musical’s Kenny Ortega, and starring a young Thora Birch, the kid from Eerie Indiana, and the queen of supporting roles in 90s comedy Kathy Najimy, it is a hilarious, camp, and surprisingly adult Halloween romp.
In the 1700s, witches the Sanderson Sisters (played by Najimy, a not-annoying Sarah Jessica Parker, and the goddess that is Bette Midler) drain the life of Emily Binx to regain their youth, and plan to do the same to all the children on Salem. In an attempt to save his sister, Thackery Binx is turned into a cat for all eternity. The witches are caught and hanged (a rare bit of accuracy, witches in Salem were never burned at the stake) but cast a final spell so that, on All Hallows Eve when the moon is full, they will return when a virgin lights the Black Flame Candle.
Fast-forward to the distant future of 1993, and angsty, sceptic teenager Max (Omri Katz) takes his little sister Danny (Thora Birch) and his crush Alison (Vinessa Shaw) to the old Sanderson house, and, in a triumphant moment of stupidity, lights the damn candle. What follows is Max, Alison and Danny, along with taking cat Binx and zombie Billy Butcherson (played by the inimitable Doug Jones) in a desperate race against the clock to prevent the witches from stealing the lives of Salem’s children before sunrise.
Hocus Pocus is a very 90's film, so I can understand how someone who wasn’t growing up in 1993 like Robbie might not be as enamoured with it. But it is all the better for being a 90's Disney live action film. It treats its young audience with intelligence, opening with the difficult subject matter of a brother failing to save his sister’s life, and believes the viewers have the emotional maturity to reconcile that with the humour on display. Disney Channel movies of the new millennium? An amoeba could grasp the emotional complexity. (That said, I do still love High School Musical. Thank you again, Kenny Ortega.)
There are very, VERY few films that me and my sister agree on. There are those she laughs her arse off at which didn’t even make me smirk (White Chicks, The Burbs, Grease 2) and the films that not only I but several people acclaim but she just passed off as rubbish (The Social Network, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Crazy Stupid Love). So whenever we sit down to watch a film, I hope I like the movie. I WANT to like the film. And this was the situation I was in last October when she sat me down to watch Hocus Pocus. I thought, "this could finally be the film that we can talk about for years”.
I don’t even know where to start here. It’s not one of the worst films I’ve ever seen but boy is it close! The cast are absolutely appalling; Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and....um...the other one, they are all absolutely cringe worthy. Fair enough, they are witches and they act very over the top, which was probably the idea of their roles but it just didn’t work for me. However, they can get a pass as long as those damn kids are around. I was actually shocked to find out that the little sister in the movie later played Kevin Spacey’s daughter in American Beauty, a role which she was rather superb in. Now, I suppose I shouldn’t throw too much hate on them; 95% of child actors aren’t great. But they were so annoying! Their voices just drove me more and more to the point of insanity and nothing was helped by that cat, Binx, whose English accent got gradually more and more grating.
Everyone has different opinions; that’s what this article is supposed to show. And I respect the opinions of Hayley, my sister and everyone who likes this film. But at the time, I looked at my sister enjoying the film and all I could think “Are we watching the same film? What are you enjoying about this?” and then it hit me; she was 6 years old when she saw this film. I was 14. She had nostalgia on her side, and at the time, surely this must’ve been absolutely wonderful. Maybe if I had seen it 7 years younger I’d be singing its praises but all I can see is an awful piece of cinema, riddled with bad performances and drawn out sequences. Like I said, not one of the worst films ever but certainly not one that will pop up on a best ever list. If you haven’t seen this and have ventured into adulthood, I’d say give this a miss, as it just won’t have the intended effect on you.
Who do you agree with? Let us know in the comments!