Monday, April 11, 2011

Hocus Pocus (Film)

Release date: 1993. Performers: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Omri Katz, Thora Birch, Vinessa Shaw. Studio: Walt Disney Pictures. Director: Kenny Ortega. Screenplay: David Kirschner, Mick Garris, Neil Cuthbert.

Plot summary: In 1693 Salem, Massachusetts, teenager, Thackery Binx, is horrified to discover that his younger sister, Emily, has been captured by witch sisters, Winifred, Sarah and Mary Sanderson. Thackery is unable to save Emily before the sisters suck the life out of her, and is turned into a black cat himself. Shortly after, the Salem townspeople confront the Sanderson sisters and hang them for their crimes, but not before the witches cast a spell that will allow them to be resurrected on Halloween night by a virgin. 300 years later, sixteen-year-old Max and his eight-year-old sister Dani have just been forced to move from Los Angeles to Salem by their parents. Dani makes the best of the move, but Max is very unhappy, despite the crush he develops on popular girl, Allison. On Halloween night, Max reluctantly agrees to take Dani trick-or-treating, and the pair stumble upon Allison’s house. In an effort to impress his crush, Max invites Allison to accompany him and Dani to the old Sanderson cottage, now a mothballed museum. The trio arrive at the cottage, only to be attacked by a black cat (Thackery Binx, still alive after being transformed by the witches.) Before they can stop him, Max lights the “black flame candle,” fulfilling the spell that the witches cast and bringing them back to life. Now the Sanderson sisters are on a mission to suck the lives from all of Salem’s children so that they can live forever. Will Max, Allison and Dani be able to stop them?

Review: This classic Halloween flick contains enough spooky thrills to entertain younger tween audiences, without giving them too much of a scare. Although the “present” in the film is now dated (tweens of 2011 will undoubtedly chuckle at the early 90s references, hair styles, and clothing), the story is interesting enough to still be relevant today. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy are a great comedic trio as the evil Sanderson sisters. Although their demise is, of course, inevitable, tweens will enjoy their sisterly banter and efforts to acclimate themselves to the “future.” The love story between Max and Allison is also something tweens will enjoy, as is the relationship between Max and Dani. Overall, this is a fun movie that will delight tweens year round, but especially at Halloween-time.

Genre: Comedy/Halloween

Interest level: Grade 4-8

Similar titles: The Witches (1990)

Personal thoughts: This was one of my favorite movies as a tween, and I still love it today. When I first saw it in theaters, I was only 9 and it was just scary enough to entertain me. I think that tweens today will still enjoy the whacky behavior of the witch sisters and identify with Max as he struggles to contend with his little sister and his crush.

Themes: Witches, Halloween, sibling relationships, high school relationships, moving.

Awards/Reviews: Was not a critical success in theaters, but has garnered a cult following. The film is regularly played on TV at Halloween. In 2010, the Sanderson sisters were ranked #9 on the MTV.com movie blog’s list of “Best Movie Witches Ever” (http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2011/01/07/season-of-the-witch-best-movie-witches/).

Series Information: N/A

Character information:
Winifred “Winnie” Sanderson: The head witch of the Sanderson sisters. She is the smartest of her sisters, but also the most ruthless. She wants to be young and beautiful forever.


Sarah Sanderson: The youngest of the Sanderson sisters, and the least intelligent but most beautiful. She frequently runs around and sings incoherently.


Mary Sanderson: The middle Sanderson sister, she has the ability to “sniff out” children with her nose.


Max Dennison: Sixteen-year-old high school student who is upset that his parents moved him and his sister, Dani, to Salem, Massachusetts. He has a crush on Allison, and is awkward around her. He inadvertently resurrects the Sanderson sisters and must fight to stop them.


Dani Dennison: Eight-year-old little sister of Max. She is enthusiastic about living in Salem. She frequently fights with and annoys Max.


Allison: Popular and intelligent high school student. Max has a large crush on her, and the feelings are eventually mutual.

Annotation: What would you do if you accidentally resurrected three witches on Halloween night? Max and his sister Dani must try to stop the evil Sanderson sisters, originally executed in Salem, Massachusetts in 1693, from sucking the lives out of the town’s children to become immortal.

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