Disney has re-issued Hocus Pocus in a 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray, finally adding some bonus features that should appease fans of this quasi-classic.
The Production: 2.5/5
I remember when Hocus Pocus was released theatrically that Roger Ebert absolutely hated this movie, calling it a waste of the talents involved and an insult to its audience. Based on his advice, I stayed clear of this film for nearly 25 years, until now. Unfortunately, I have to agree with the late Mr. Ebert as well as Home Theater Forum’s Matt Hough, who reviewed the barebones Blu-ray edition that was released in 2012.
From Matt Hough’s review: “Three witch sisters, the wickedly malevolent Winifred Sanderson (Bette Midler), the timidly daffy Mary (Kathy Najimy), and the über-dense Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), are hanged in 1693 Salem for their crimes only to find themselves resuscitated in 1993 by California transplant Max (Omri Katz) trying to impress local Salem girl Allison (Vinessa Shaw) with his bravado by lighting a black flamed candle in the witches’ old homeplace. The ugly witches were in the middle of casting a spell to steal youthfulness from the Salem children to make themselves young, so upon returning, they want to pick up where they left off. But their spell casting book has been taken by Max, so on Halloween night, the three are off on their brooms to find their property and use the children who stole it as their first subjects.
The Mick Garris-Neil Cuthbert screenplay is padded to interminable lengths to give the three star ladies enough time to screech and cackle to their hearts’ content while director Kenny Ortega lets them ham it up far past the point of no return. Rather than offering some really good slapstick moments (which one would expect in a PG Disney comedy) or some droll rejoinders especially from Bette Midler who made a career out of them, we get basically nothing from the stars who are content to prance around in their hideously elaborate make-ups, hairstyles, and costumes and leave the storytelling to the younger actors who are a dull lot indeed. There’s a brief teen romance, of course, and a couple of obnoxious bullies (Larry Bagby III, Tobias Jelinek) to make life miserable for the protagonists until the witches put them in their place. But comedy is light on the ground in this enterprise (think of the missed opportunities with the witches three centuries out of their comfort zones trying to cope with modern conveniences), and the only real few moments of inspired fun come when the witches attend a Halloween costume party and get up on stage and perform “I Put a Spell on You,” anachronistic to be sure but still the only real moments of loony fun in the whole shebang.
Bette Midler runs roughshod over her funny lady co-stars who basically make no impression at all. Midler mugs shamelessly throughout (she really enjoys the horrendous buck teeth she’s been fitted with), but it’s still not very funny. Of the children, young Thora Birch makes the best impression as the baby sister Dani whose insistence on going trick or treating gets Max out of the house in the first place. Omri Katz and Vinessa Shaw are the teen lovebirds who are pleasant but instantly forgettable. But the impossibly young Sean Murray begins and ends the film as Thackery, a young Salem man whose sister was one of the children being used by the witches for spell casting and while intervening was turned into an immortal cat. Unlike the delightful Salem on Sabrina, the Teenaged Witch¸ Murray’s cat isn’t as witty or sophisticated and the climactic fate of Thackery seems meant to elicit some tears from the audience. If so, it’s just another in the litany of disappointments offered by this movie.”
3D Rating: NA
Based on Matt’s review, this appears to be the same transfer: “The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully rendered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is very good throughout, and the film’s bright colors are well delivered without much blooming (some purples do get very hot). Flesh tones of the children and their parents are natural looking (the witches’ garish make-up is successfully represented in the transfer, too). Black levels are only fair, a fairly major problem since so much of the movie takes place at night and with heavy shadows on occasion which tend to dampen detail. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.”
Again, apparently the same audio mix as before: “The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix doesn’t offer a terrific amount of front and rear activity, but there are occasional sound effects placed in discrete channels and a bit of directionalized dialogue, too, though most of the dialogue has been placed in the center channel. John Debney’s rather incessant music gets the most play in the entire soundfield with effective routing through the fronts and rears.”
Special Features: 3/5
We Love Hocus Pocus: Trivia and Treats Edition (1080p; 96:05): A picture-in-picture track filled with vintage behind the scenes footage and interviews, storyboards, script notes, and trivia. A few examples of the trivia – Sean Murray who plays Thackery is the same actor all grown up who plays Tim McGee on NCIS, Vinessa Shaw’s other Disney credit was in Corky Romano, and one scene was shot on the same exterior as the opening credits to the TV series Friends. Note: this is not a bonus audio track and instead appears to be a second encode of the film, as the aspect ratio for this “edition” is 1.78:1 instead of 1.85:1.
Original Production Featurette (480i; 4:37): The original EPK piece produced back in 1993, featuring interviews and behind the scenes footage. Note: This feature would not play on my Sony UBP-X800 UHD Blu-ray player, resulting in audio only and a scrambled picture, but did play just fine on my old Panasonic DMP-BD60, Sony BDP-S5100, and Sony PS3 Slim.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy in HD on Movies Anywhere.
I did not care for this film one bit, and found it a chore to watch, but I know there are fans out there that just adore this film. So much so that Disney’s El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood usually plays this film for two weeks every October. Fans will be happy that Disney has actually included some extras, especially the Trivia and Treats Edition extra.http://www.amazon.com/HOCUS-POCUS-Blu-ray-Bette-Midler/dp/B07CQR5SWN/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1536374974&sr=1-1&keywords=786936858648&dpID=61y8jfSe3wL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch