On Second Thought: “Hocus Pocus”

Some films just have to be watched every year. Even if it seems that the joy of what makes this film great and fun should be wearing off, it surprisingly hasn’t, and probably never will. I guess that’s the hallmark of a good or decent film. Or, simpler yet, it’s just what makes a film a cult classic.

The Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures film “Hocus Pocus”, is still an enjoyable and silly film that oddly never gets old.

This comedy film stars Bette Midler (“Parental Guidance”, “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore”), Sarah Jessica Parker (“Escape from Planet Earth”, “Glee”), Kathy Najimy (“Younger”, “Descendants”), Omri Katz (“Journey Into Night (Short 2002)”, “General Hospital”), Thora Birch (upcoming “Colony”, “Petunia”), Vinessa Shaw (“Bereave”, “Ray Donovan”), Charles Rocket (“Law & Order: Criminal Intent”, “Touched by an Angel”), Stephanie Faracy (“Togetherness”, “Friends with Better Lives”), Sean Murray (“NCIS”, “JAG”), Kathleen Freeman (“As Told by Ginger”, “Shrek”), and Doug Jones (“Arrow”, “Falling Skies”).

The film was directed by Kenny Ortega (“Descendants”, “Bunheads”) and written by Mick Garris (“Fear Itself”, “Masters of Horror”) and Neil Cuthbert (“The Adventures of Pluto Nash”, “Mystery Men”).

I, like so many other people, have seen this movie more times than I can count. A part of that, again, like so many others, grew up with this film. The funny thing about this film is not that I don’t have it in my collection, but that I feel like it’s only recently become a tradition. Before, I may have watched it, especially if it was on TV, like this year on ABC Family. Now that it is a tradition, I’m okay with that. I actually was super excited today to watch it among all the films I will have watched this year. Who knows what next year will look like. No doubt crowded and difficult to decide on the final lineup.

While this film is quite enjoyable to watch, it’s actually not hard to see why critics hated this film and why it didn’t really do well back in 1993. It’s more or less pretty dumb, but hey, so are a lot of family and kid friendly movies.

This film’s high point, as a lot of the best moments come from them, are the Sanderson Sisters. They’re just crazy and a bit over the top, but not too much, and funny. It’s almost largely where the comedy comes from. Throughout this whole movie, when it involves the sisters, it’s usually ridiculous and funny. The “burning rain of death” bit is just one of the moments with these characters that I absolutely loved. It always seems like I’m watching it for the first time. And then, of course, there’s the musical number. Slightly random, but still just as exciting as the first time. It really doesn’t get old.

While I do absolutely love the sisters, this film is actually not as funny as I ever thought it was. It has nothing to do with whether or not I laughed at the usual moments, I did. It just didn’t seem to have as many comedic moments or bits as I’ve allowed myself to believe exist. Regardless, for a film that’s this old and can still entertain like it’s brand new, I’d say it’s a winner that will continue to be loved by those over the coming years.

With any kid or family friendly film, there’s bound to be some adult humor. While there were only a few instances of adult humor (the Madonna joke), that kids might find funny, but not know why, I think what surprised me was the level the humor went to. Yes, I was surprised by the bus driver having the sister’s children. Of course nothing too extreme, but something I don’t think could find its way into a family film today.

The rest of the characters are likable and that’s it. It’s not a bad thing, surprisingly, but each of these characters has enough traits and emotions (and whatever else), that carries them a long way. The relationship between Katz and Birch is perfect, or so I’m imagining. They’re siblings, so what else do you expect? It’s not too much, and it doesn’t come off as fake.

It’s amazing what films last through the ages as a favorite of ours. They may not be all that great, but somehow they’re still films we hold dear to our hearts. As long as this film has me happy and acting very much like a child, then I think it’s a keeper. I just wish I could convince myself that this is a film worth watching more than once a year.


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