Hocus Pocus
Entertainment: +2 1/2
Acceptability: -1

When Max Dennison (Omri Katz) moved from L.A. to Salem, Massachusetts, he found a lot more changed than the weather. In particular, he discovers that the whole town is crazy for Halloween, and most believe in its power. A non-believing Max lights a magic candle on Halloween night that is supposed to bring three witches back to life. The spell works and the Sanderson sisters, who died during the Salem Witch Trials, appear. Their favorite trick is sucking out the lives of little children. The head witch, Winnifred (Bette Midler), and her bungling sisters, Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimy), must find at least one child to suck the life from before daybreak or they will die. Aided by a 300-year-old talking black cat, Max and his little sister Dani (Thora Birch) must fight the witches before they kill their next victim. What follows is a fairly funny assortment of slapstick and overacting by the Sanderson sisters and the typical "kids against the world" theme of so many young adult movies today. There are no plot surprises in this film made expressly for a young audience.

A little more surprising, however, is the portrayal of witches and Halloween as a time of fun and excitement with no concern for evil spirits. Even the Sanderson sisters, while evil, are funny and fairly likable. Several scenes, including the one where the witches are brought back from the dead, may scare young children. Also, the occult looms large in this movie. A magic book bound in human skin is given to the sisters by Satan, whom the sisters call their master. In one humorous scene they mistake a man dressed as the devil for him. The kids protect themselves with rings of salt, and Winnifred raises up her "old" boyfriend as a zombie to chase the kids. Moderate violence includes the witches hanged (only their feet are shown dangling), and the zombie's head and fingers knocked off several times. Witches and others are struck frequently, and Winnifred punishes victims with intense electrical charges. Offensive language includes several mild crudities and some sexually suggestive remarks. HOCUS POCUS is a bad brew for its use of slap-stick witchcraft to exploit the occult as entertainment, just as violence is used in LAST ACTION HERO, HOME ALONE, and other current popular films. It also develops empathy for witches, witchcraft and Halloween by portraying them in a light-hearted, humorous manner.

Preview Reviewer: Greg Wilson
Distributor: Buena Vista Distribution, 3900 W. Alameda Ave., Burbank, ca 91530

Crude Language: Many (10) times - Mild 8; Moderate 2
Obscene Language: None
Profanity: Exclamatory (4) times
Violence: Many times - Moderate (witches hanged but only feet shown; zombie's head and fingers knocked off; cat run over; striking with objects and electrical charges; frightening scenes)
Sexual Intercourse: None
Nudity: Near nudity (young witch wears seductive low cut dresses)
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: Few times, references to body parts; seductive young witch
Drug Abuse: None
Other: Occult portrayed in light-hearted, humorous manner
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