Bad Movies We Love: Hocus Pocus

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Whip up a cauldron of haterade, because this week's Bad Movie We Love is a foray into children's Halloween cinema. It's a bargain bin Addams Family ripoff with spooky gusts of wind beneath its wings. It's Hocus Pocus, my pretties, Disney's perennial Halloween favorite for people who were exactly 7 in 1993. (Present!) We've got yer veteran character actresses in hag attire, a couple of winning child stars, and two songs that should render you songless until Thanksgiving. No, this is not a prequel to Sex and the City 2.

Director Kenny Ortega (!!!) has a tale on his hands that would send chills throughout Sleepy Hollow: Three witches (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker) hanged in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1600s come back 300 years later to terrorize two youngsters (Thora Birch and Omri Katz), thanks to a curse placed on their bodies. There's also some business involving an immortal cat, but you just need to call this flick The Excrucible, pretty much. Like all Bad Movies We Love, there are five great perks worth revisiting here, and we have them all tallied down. Talk about a Ghost World -- this week's selection is damn haunted!

5. At age 11, Thora Birch knew how to matter.

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Sure, she's not even the kid star who acts as our main protagonist (that honor belongs to Omri Katz, whose character hilariously has to keep asserting his virginity -- though his floppy hair remains the envy of all early '90s fifth graders), but Thora Birch is pretty fresh as young Dani. She'd reach her true potential in American Beauty, but her performance is that rare version of precociousness that doesn't seem unbelievable on camera. She's smart, but not an adult hiding in a kid's body. Refreshing. Not creepy. Tolerable.

4. Am I buying discount leopard heels? Because it appears we're at "Marshalls."

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Please click to 1:50 for the most confusing pair of cameos from Garry and Penny Marshall. What is this, Lost in America? How are Marshall cameos even legal in 1993. They're a married couple here (chills), and they're also pretty goddamn sick of this movie, it appears. I don't know what or whose favor reeled them into the picture, but their involvement is a glamorously dada moment in such pedestrian fare. Talk about Awakenings! I won't sleep for days.

3. Remember when Sarah Jessica Parker ruled?

I brought this up before, but Sarah Jessica Parker used to be pretty unpredictable as an in-demand Hollywood thespian. Before Carrie Bradshaw set her up for life as a bonily chic romcom star, SJP took on character roles that can best be described as "wacky." I could stand to rewatch L.A. Story and, hell, Honeymoon in Vegas. Or even Mars Attacks! (again). Here, as witch Sarah Sanderson, she spends most of her screentime working up giggles and witchy shivers during All Hallow's Eve. She's brassy! And scary! I don't know how she does it, but actual witchcraft is officially not out of the question. Just putting it out there: Kim Cattrall may have stolen her Samantha Jones laugh from SJP's work in this movie.

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2. Remember when Sarah Jessica Parker wooed children to their doom?

Hocus Pocus is a bona fide cult sensation, and I think part of the reason why is Sarah Jessica Parker's creepy, yet oddly alluring siren song "Come Little Children." Sure, she's caressing a broom while soothing unsuspecting children, but she makes their doom sound like an irresistible dollop of Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. Enjoy the succulence of death, sweet kids. Just watch and gawp with me.

1. Bette Midler puts a spell on you, and it's got soul.

Onetime Oscar nominee Bette Midler is a three-layer sassafras casserole in Hocus Pocus, and her zeal only multiplies as head witch Winifred Sanderson during the course of the film. Some solid one-liners from Winnie: "Oh, look. Another glorious morning. Makes me sick." Not quite Morticia Addams, but good enough. Or: "You know, I've always wanted a child. And now I think I'll have one... on toast!" Both hilarious and lame! Thanks, Hocus Pocus. But Midler's fearless campiness culminates in a near-unprecedented rendition of "I Put a Spell on You" later in the movie. Is it embarrassing? Not really. Well, not when you realize the karaoke disaster it could've been. Sarah Jessica Parker, how could you be involved in two of the nuttiest karaoke segments of the cinema's past 20 years? How? It bears repeating: I. Don't. Know. How. She. Does. It.

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  • Capote99 says:

    "The Excrucible" and "three-layer sassafras casserole" are among the things that keep Louis close to my heart.

  • Mallory says:

    you know, I've always wanted a child...and now I think I'll have one- ON TOAST!!
    lol, I love this movie much more than I should. Just introduced my daughter to it this Halloween and yet another generation of nerdy fandom begins...

  • Jamie says:

    THIS MOVIE. I was 13 when it came out, and I watched it to death. I just showed it to my 5-year old cousin who loves weird stuff, and realized something that shattered me: it's HORRIBLE. So many bad anachronisms, like something about reminiscing about margarine, which didn't exist in the 17th century...tons of those. But man, such wonderful badness. I cannot hate it. Ever. Also: Sean Murray playing the human form of Thackery Binx! But not in voice. So weird!

  • Jason says:

    Did you see the SJP episode of "Who Do You Think You Are"? It was revealed that one of her ancestors WAS actually a woman who was tried as a witch in Salem! And they didn't so much as MENTION this movie! Talk about an egregious oversight.

  • Perhaps it was because I was 10 and not 7 but if I had to describe the lullaby scene with 3 words they would be "creepy", "alluring" and "BOOBIES!!!" (yep, capitalized with 3 or more exclamation points). I mean really... SJP really pulls off the skanky yet oh so irresistible witch nicely... especially with the super pale skin and push-up bodice combo.

    And Bette Midler... you know a real Broadway actor/actress has arrived when they can turn a high school gym into the Gershwin Theatre by their presence alone.