Seguin Gazette Enterprise
July 15, 1993
In “Hocus Pocus,” there’s a point when a witch called Winifred threatens to snatch up and kill an intensely adorable little apple-cheekedÂ girl named Dani. “You die first!” screeches the witch, played by Bette Midler.
It’s a moment that was intended to have you shivering with fear â€” sort of like when Dorothy was seized by the Wicked Witch. But instead, it’s a moment that had a screening audience â€” presumably packed with friends of the studio, Walt Disney Pictures, no less â€” cheering with delight at the suggestion that an end was in sight to the film’s unrelieved treacle and high hokum.
This dreary waste of celluloid is set in Salem, Mass., on Halloween 300 years after a trio of witches â€” the Sanderson sisters, Winifred,Â Mary (Kathy Najimy) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) â€” were hanged for the deaths of two children.
The witches sucked the life out of one girl,’which apparently works as a tonic to keep the old hags young, and turned a boy into a blackÂ cat that never can be killed.
The witches return from their three centuries of limbo after Dani’s brother, Max (Omri Katz), incredulously lights a black-flamed candleÂ that has the power to summon back the women, but only if it is lit on full moon by a virgin.
The witches reappear all bluster and bumble in a fashion that seems more a bad Three Stooges imitation than any sort of mystical farce.
Midler is the crafty one with bad teeth; Najimy the supplicant sibling with a nose like a bloodhound when it comes to sniffing out children; and Parker is the daffy one who says “ahhhhh” more times than a person with bad tonsils. Perhaps she’s just trying to master monosyllables before working up to actual lines.
The witches are back with a missionâ€” to capture as many children as possible in order to stay young forever. Of course, they start withÂ the ruby-lipped little Dani (Thora Birch), who is cursed with so many smug, smart-aleck lines that killing her off probably would be asÂ rewarding for the viewer as it would be for the witches. It doesn’t help that Birch’s acting ability is as overdone as the witches’ makeup.
Dani, Max and their friend, Allison, set out to thwart the witches with the help of Binx, the immortal cat who talks, and a 300-year-oldÂ corpse whose mouth has been stitched shut.
It’s fitting that “Hocus Pocus”, centers on a Halloween caper â€” this movie is all trick, no treat.
The dialogue is dreadful.
There also are several scenes involving the cat being run over by a car and tortured in other ways that most young children probablyÂ would find very disturbing.
Directed by Kenny Ortega (“Newsies”), the screenplay is by Mick Garris and Neil Cuthbert. Produced by David Kirschner and Steven Haft, the film is rated PG.
Motion Picture Association of America rating definition: PG â€” Parental guidance suggested.
Some material may not be suitable for children.