‘Hocus Pocus’: 25th Anniversary Edition Resurrects a Cult Hit

In another time, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy headlined a Disney movie about evil witches, and despite spending only two weeks in the top ten—perhaps a mid-July release date wasn’t the wisest decision for a movie set on Halloween Day—Hocus Pocus has become somewhat of a cult hit.

Twenty-five years later, I re-watched the movie for the first time since its release—when I was 11—in tune with Disney’s Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release (which, by no coincidence, they sent me to write this very review you are reading right now, and of which I wrote nearly two weeks after its street date).

As it turns out, despite having less-than-fond memories of it, Hocus Pocus is a surprisingly fun little jaunt, complete with all-in performances by the three witches and your typical (but reliable) Disney formula involving a teenage boy (Omri Katz), his love interest (Vinessa Shaw) and little sister (Thora Birch).

Who of course are the only ones who can stop the witches from sucking the youth from all children in Salem. Would that really be that bad?

Hocus Pocus doesn’t take full advantage of its “fish out of water” concept, though there are some amusing segments involving the witches, who return to life after 300 years, encountering modern day inventions such as paved roads, buses and sprinkler systems (but not cars, electricity, or a myriad of other obvious scenarios). A scene where the witches meet their “master”—an old man dressed up as Satan for Halloween—is a standout.

But Hocus Pocus, at just over 90 minutes, is a fast, funny adventure with enough weird, out-there antics to keep you entertained. Katz serves as an adequate protagonist, even if a young Birch is understandably the most engaging of the child cast (who, in addition to playing Harrison Ford’s daughter in his Jack Ryan movies, would go onto star in the critically acclaimed Ghost World and American Beauty). The movie lives and breathes with Bette Midler’s kooky performance however; she appears to relish every second she’s on screen.

Sarah Jessica Parker is pretty good, though Kathy Najimy, perhaps best known as the lovable and boisterous nun in Sister Act, is wasted as the “lesser” of three witches.

Hocus Pocus isn’t perfect, but it has more than enough antics and witchcraft to deserve its cult status—and a re-watch if it has been 25 years since you last saw it. While maybe not suitable for very young children, it’s a fairly safe family film as long as your kids don’t mind a few zombies and other ghoulish things.

“The 25th Anniversary Edition of Hocus Pocus includes the original theatrical film and the We ? Hocus Pocus: Trivia and Treats Edition, featuring pop up video extras including fun facts, trivia, deleted scenes, cast and crew commentary, and behind-the-scenes secrets”… The Multi-Screen Edition of Hocus Pocus includes a Blu-ray and Digital Code giving viewers the flexibility to watch the film on different devices.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: DVD Releases, Movie Reviews