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On July 16, 1993, Disney brought the witchcraft feature Hocus Pocus to the big screen, where it earned $39 million stateside during its run. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:
Eye of newt, toe of frog, voice of Bette. Alakazamm! Stir it together in a percolating cauldron full of black cats, graveyards and special effects and, “Hocus, Pocus” you’ve got a bubbling children’s feature from Disney.
While it may take downright sorcery to conjure up another box office winner amid the current bulging batch at the box office, this perky release will be a Halloween-in-July for Buena Vista. It’s a veritable bagful of box office treats.
Out of deference to Monday morning attention spans, we’ll crunch-pack the plot. Three gnarly, 17th-century Salem Witches (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy) are unwittingly conjured up for a Halloween night in present-day Salem. While they tend to spruce up the party festivities with their outlandish costumery and Three Stooges-like antics, they’re not good witches. Their lifeblood is young children, and they’ve got one night to sate their hunger pangs or, come morn, turn to dust.
While hobgoblins may deem the plotline excessively ghoulish, screenwriters Mick Garris and Neil Cuthbert have outfitted it around some pleasingly splendid ingredients and subplots. Hocus Pocus centers around two new kids in town, a laid-back but brainy teenaged boy, Max (Ormi Katz), and his rambunctious 8-year-old sister Dani (Thora Birch). While stumbling through the pangs of adolescence and smitten by the smile of the town’s leading teen queen (Vinessa Shaw), Max must fend off not only the resident bullies but save his sister and all the other kids from the furies of the witches. It’s a lot for a kid to do.
Screenwriters Garris and Cuthbert have managed to ladle in amid the kiddy goods some zingingly subversive asides to tickle older, more immature viewers.
Even when the plot bobs for story apples too long, director Kenny Ortega’s nimble narrative choreography propels it along. Hocus Pocus is always fast on its feet, in large part because of the hoary aplomb of Midler, Parker and Najimy. You don’t need a crystal ball to predict that turning Midler loose as a comic witch is magical, but Parker, with her spastically sexy movements, and Najimy, with her flittery doofy reactions, remarkably hold their own. The kids are good too: Katz as the conscientious older brother and Birch as the feisty, younger sister are properly sympathetic.
Tech contributions are terrifically suited to the production, especially composer John Debney’s score, which, with its blasts of brass and eruptions of woodwinds, brings all the right tones to this family amusement. — Duane Byrge, originally published July 12, 1993.
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