“Hocus Pocus” has become one of those movies that defines Halloween in every way, and rightfully so. From its dramatic trio of witches, to gimmicky special effects, to a talking animal, it has all the ingredients to create the kind of goofy but nostalgic Disney Halloween classic that stands the test of time.
The 1993 classic, directed by Kenny Ortega, kicks off with a bang in the year 1963 when three sister witches, Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimy) Sanderson, are hanged for casting a spell on a young girl living in Salem to transfer her youth to themselves, subsequently killing her. The Sanderson sisters, however, leave behind a spell that would enable their resurrection.
300 years later, teenager Max Dennison (Omri Katz) and his little sister Dani (Thora Birch) have recently relocated from Los Angeles to Salem, much to Max’s disgust. On Halloween night, Max’s crush Allison (Vinessa Shaw) leads the pair to the cottage that once belonged to the Sanderson sisters. The cottage is guarded by Thackery Binx (Sean Murray), the brother of the young girl killed by the Sanderson sisters, in cat form.
However, Binx is unable to prevent Max from lighting the Black Flame Candle, which resurrects the Sanderson sisters, releasing them into the 20th century, where chaos ensues.
The success of “Hocus Pocus” is undeniably propelled by the Sanderson sisters, who have rightfully gone on to become the faces of Disney’s Halloween celebrations alongside Jack Skellington of “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Midler, Parker and Majimy play their parts with a flair that is perfectly dramatic while avoiding overacting. Their humor, while corny at times, is easily appealing to viewers of all ages and makes for some laugh-out-loud moments.
Solid performances from younger “Hocus Pocus” stars, particularly Katz, round out the movie’s charming cast.
A real treat of “Hocus Pocus” comes in the form of its costume and set designs, which give it the perfect touch of cartoonish spookiness that captures the Halloween season to perfection. The Sanderson sisters’ makeup and costumes are deserving of every level of praise, and it’s no wonder their looks have become iconic staples among costume-wearers. The movie’s hazy and colorful Salem backdrop is enough to make viewers long to take a Halloween trip to visit the famous town.
Above all, “Hocus Pocus” succeeds at capturing the heart of the Halloween season and all of its colorful celebrations and cheesy attempts at being frightening. It’s the type of movie the world needs to help them let go and feel like a little kid again for a moment.
Like any old Disney classic, it’s not the peak of cinema, but it possesses the kind of nostalgia that people need year after year to warm their hearts and enjoy everything that makes Halloween so special.
Filmnetic Grade: A-
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