Let’s dump on a family favorite.
I remember seeing Hocus Pocus in theaters and not having the best time. Watching it 28 years later showed how little I had actually remembered. This one, for whatever reason, has become a beloved Halloween classic. I think this is mainly due to Bette Midler’s job as Winifred. It is clear she is having fun, as are Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimy).
Our three witches end up Three Stooging their way through the film. Midler’s character seems the smartest, but only in comparison to the others. After they steal the soul of a child they are burned at the stake, but if a virgin lights a candle in the future, they will be resurrected for one night. Enter Max (Omri Katz) who is about as cringey as a real teen.
Max seems pissed the family moved to Salem and mopes his way through the first chunk of the film. Through the magic of narrative needs, he, his sister, and his love interest end up at the witch’s hut and he lights the candle. Good job bud.
Obviously, this is a kids’ film, so the scares are about as light as a Scooby Doo episode. Believe it or not, I’m not complaining about that aspect of the film. Where the film falters are that the rules of the universe only work in a way to propel the prop. Our villains aren’t threatening and are often held at bay with bags of candy. At other points, we see them enchant all the kids in the city with a song. Coupled with a by-the-books story we end up seeing the narrative flaws quite easily here.
The film isn’t funny enough. While some of the observations of our witches now resurrected 300 years later is funny, there isn’t enough of those moments. The film feels heavy. Too many characters kept too separate for anything to really mean anything. I remembered feeling like the movie was too long when I was eight years old. Now, it just feels like a bit of a slog.
For a silly film for little kids I guess it works. I know some will react with a “it’s supposed to be fun” argument, which implies people who don’t find it fun have something wrong with them rather than the film. This is just another rubber-stamped Disney live-action film that without the brand and the presence of Midler would have been forgotten long ago.
It is competently made, at least when compared to other films of the same year. The special effects are showing their age, but I don’t think most fans care. I imagine most enjoy this film for the nostalgic elements and emotions it stirs rather than anything inherently critical within the film. I know they’re making a sequel, which makes me wonder if this resurrect and old favorite for a sequel fad will be dead before they release this one.
If you’re a fan of this film nothing I say will convince you otherwise. It’s just mediocre to me through and through. I think there are better options for young kids.