Hocus Pocus (1993) Directed by Kenny Ortega
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"You know, I've always wanted a child. And now I think I'll have one... ON TOAST!" Winifred Sanderson.
Three hundred years agone, the Sanderson Sister lived in Salem Village. Winifred (The Divine Bette Midler) Mary (Kathy Najimy) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) were aging, not so gracefully, but as fate would have it, they had recourse; they were witches, and they had a plan to suck the life from the children of Salem, restoring themselves to youth and eternal vigor.
However, Zachary Binx (Sean Murray) sees his sister Emily (Amanda Shepherd) being led away, and sends for help while he moves to rescue his sister. He fails and is turned to a cat for his troubles, an immortal cat.
However, the towns people arrive with their pitchforks and torches, and the sisters are duly hung, but not before uttering a curse, an escape clause if you will.
Now, three hundred years later Max Dennison (Omri Katz) and his family have moved to Salem from LA. Max has the standard troubles moving, but there are compensations, like Allison (Vinessa Shaw). It is to impress her that Max and his sister Dani (Thora Birch) out trick-r-treating broke into the Sanderson Sister's Museum, and there to prove his machismo, he lit the black flame candle. Now the witches are back, and they have until dawn to suck the lives out of the children of Salem, or it's back to the grave with them! Now it's three spunky kids and an immortal talking cat against three witches in a battle of wits with death as the stakes!
There are the prerequisite bullies; Jay (Tobias Jelinak) and Ice (Larry Bagby) ((Wasn't he a jock at Sunnydale who came out as Gay, and a White Hat?)) are idiots who enjoy pushing others around, Mom (Stephanie Faracy) Dad (Charles Rocket) and the reanimated corpse of Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones) are the only characters, and really, only Dani shows any real depth of character. This is a real weakness, or so it seems. The Sanderson Sisters are all portrayed by fine actresses with skills and range; so why do they depend on screaming and dithering to create the characters? They come across as cartoons, somehow brought to life.
Now the production is well done; they did not skimp on production values, or the use of well costumed extras. The costumes (particularly Billy Butcherson) are great, and the sisters are delightful confections of corsets and blousy bits, with lots and lots of details, down to their striped socks.
And the cinematography is wondrous, capturing fall in New England in a village designed by Martha Stewart in collaboration with Wednesday Addams. No complaints there.
The sound track makes good use of old Doors (I Put a Spell on You) which Bette makes her own, and Witchcraft, and Sarah's own enchanting spell. The problem isn't there.
So it comes back to the wooden cut out figures of the witches and the white bread purity of the kids. That is where I thought the problem lay.
So I asked my expert, my eldest Nephew (age 6) what he thought about it all. He was enthused. He gushed. And I asked him didn't they seem plastic to him? And he answered "Exactly!"
I was on to something here. "Why do you like them if they are fake?" I asked. He pondered and said, "You know the red headed witch, Jane (meaning Witches of Eastwick)?" I nodded. "If she was mad, she'd put a hurt on you." I thought about Susan Sarandon, and had to agree. "These witches are like a plastic Jack-o-lantern. You can be scared of it if you want to, and if you don't feel like it....you don't."
And there it was in the irrefutable wisdom of a first grader. The movie succeeds because it knows its audience; kids. And it is here to thrill them, not scare them. There is a difference. Viewed in that light, the movie succeeded.
We are triple dipping this review. At 666 words exactly it is entered in the Sleeperless54 Lean-N-Mean Write Off. A tale of child munching witches, it is entered into Msbunnylicious' Wicked Hallows Write Off, and as a Disney Production, it's my entry into Carstairs38's All Things Disney Write Off.
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