In just a couple weeks, Halloween will be upon us. With this significant day comes a multitude of traditions: trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving and watching spooky movies. And for some, it means pulling out nostalgic films like “Hocus Pocus,” a production released by Disney in 1993, and for many, a family favorite.
In this film, a trio of kids – Dani Dennison, Max Dennison and his new friend and crush, Allison – go exploring in an abandoned house on the night of Halloween. Max, who is originally from Los Angeles, has recently moved to Salem, Massachusetts.
In this small town, superstitions surrounding Halloween abound, all of which Max refuses to believe. Through a series of events, Max ends up resurrecting the Sanderson sisters, a group of three witches that had lived 300 years before. These kids are taken on an adventure to stop the witches from destroying their town and all who live in it.
For many, “Hocus Pocus” is a classic Halloween movie. Unlike many Halloween related films, this one is safe for the whole family to watch. With exaggerated costumes, makeup and humorous acting, this movie keeps its audience engaged and rolling with laughter. Further, it has a satisfying ending – everyone is reunited, the evil is destroyed and life returns to normal.
This movie boasts of some big names such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy. However, due to the costuming and the script, I did not feel like the audience got to see these actors at their fullest potential. As this movie was clearly geared toward children, these actors spent the entirety of the movie acting in ways similar to “Sesame Street” and “Barney and Friends.”
Further, very minimal character development was seen in any of the characters. Due to the dramatic costuming and the poor scripting, a majority of the film involved showing action rather than getting to know the characters.
Additionally, the characters took on very cliché roles: the oldest sister of the witches is the mastermind while her younger two sisters are her witless minions; Max is a rebellious teenager who is trying to fit in and be seen as “cool”; Dani is the cute, innocent and sassy younger sister.
As a viewer, I felt that a lot of the costuming and design was distracting. As mentioned above, the witches’ costumes were incredibly dramatic, they had buck teeth, and they laughed hysterically throughout the film. More than anything, I found this irritating, and it made it difficult for me to focus on the dialogue and the plot.
In addition, the animation was mediocre. Clearly, CGI has developed significantly in the last 25 years, but again, I found this more distracting than beneficial.
Regarding the plot, I will give the producers credit for originality. Tying in some history by referencing the Salem Witch Trials in addition to adding a modern twist, the audience was kept guessing at what was to come next. While there was definitely repetition in the plot, including when the kids would continue to foil the witches’ goal of brewing a certain potion, the producers did add variety to the plot.
In conclusion, if this movie is a childhood and family favorite and holds a special place in your heart, I definitely recommend watching it again. It will certainly bring back fun memories and produce a lot of laughter.
However, if, like me, you are new to this film, I would recommend watching it with others to laugh at the childishness of the film and the dramatic costuming and design. Or, spend your time enjoying other traditions such as trick-or-treating or pumpkin carving.