Hocus Pocus (1993)
Hocus Pocus Lacks Adult Focus
You know, I've always wanted a child. And now I think I'll have one... on toast! - Winifred Sanderson
If you are looking for a movie that is not too scary but okay for children to watch for Halloween then "Hocus Pocus" could be the movie. It's not frightening despite being about witches and has just the right level of humour which for the most children will enjoy. But beware as whilst "Hocus Pocus" may entertain those under the age of 10 it will probably cause those that are older to drop off. And that is a major issue as "Hocus Pocus" should be able to entertain all ages but fails desperately.
Having just moved to the town of Salem from L.A., Max Dennison (Omri Katz) is not overly happy especially as everyone in Salem is gearing up for Halloween which to him is a whole load of hokum. But whilst out reluctantly trick or treating with his younger sister Dani (Thora Birch - Patriot Games), Max accidentally manages to bring back to life the 3 Sanderson witches who have been dead for 300 years. With the witches wanting to draw the life from all the children in Salem it is up to Max, Dani and his only friend Allison (Vinessa Shaw - 3:10 to Yuma) and a talking black cat to try and stop their wicked plans.
As storylines go "Hocus Pocus" isn't bad or at least the idea of witches being brought back 300 years after being killed isn't bad. It's just that the execution of the story is lacking something critical to make those older than 10 enjoy what is going on. And that thing is comedy because whilst there are moments of innocent fright, the sort of thing that young children will enjoy, the comedy is just not there. Oh there are plenty of jokes and some of which are quite amusing but most are just dull and daft.
Instead of getting laughs we get wonderful sets, embellished caricatures and a storyline which seems to be repetitive. Yes "Hocus Pocus" looks good on a visual level but the actual storyline and comedy just doesn't match up and the longer it goes on the more painfully dull it becomes, well from an adult's point of view. But then I am sure younger audiences won't notice the obvious weaknesses and enjoy the simple storyline.
It doesn't help that whilst Omri Katz is nice enough he's not strong enough as the lead character, the sort of hero that leads his sister and friend in stopping the three witches. And neither are Vinessa Shaw or Thora Birch who find themselves as part of this "heroic" trio. And then there are the witches themselves all wonderful creations except Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker clearly play second fiddle to Bette Midler, in fact pretty much all the cast end up coming across as playing second fiddle to Bette Midler. Which in itself wouldn't be that bad except due to the lack of decent writing Bette Midler isn't that spectacular even in an almost forced musical scene which should make you break out in a smile.
But all of this may sound like I'm being over picky as at its heart "Hocus Pocus" is a movie made for children and as such is adequate. Except that as we all know, adults end up watching children's movies as well, be it forced or out of choice and sadly "Hocus Pocus" doesn't give anything to entertain an adult audience despite several opportunities for some wonderful double entendres.
What this all boils down to is that "Hocus Pocus" will entertain younger audiences and it is one of those children's movies which in my opinion delivers the right level of inoffensive innocence so that you don't need to worry about your little ones. But sadly unlike so many other children's movies it fails to offer up anything of entertainment for older audiences who find themselves watching.
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