Hocus Pocus (US - BD)
Jonathan would suffer less if he dunked his head in a boiling cauldron..
When three 17th century Salem witches are accidentally summoned by modern-day pranksters, the 300-year-old trio sets out to cast a spell on the town and reclaim their youth, but first they must outwit three kids and a talking cat. (From the Disney synopsis)
I was a Disney kid growing up. For some reason our cable provider didn't have Cartoon Network and the local channels the box picked up didn't include WB, so the Disney channel was my primary source of entertainment and I watched and enjoyed nearly every corny movie that played on it; theatrical or straight-to-television. I saw Hocus Pocus on this channel when I was too young to understand what being critical of entertainment was, and yet I couldn't stand it. Three actresses that don't appeal to me dressed up as cartoony witches, talking like babies... it was grating to me as a child and upon re-watching the film today, I can say my reaction hasn't changed much. The trio of actresses are clearly having fun in the roles, but the enjoyment stops on their end.
This time around I did enjoy the brother/sister chemistry between Max (Omri Katz) and Dani (Thora Birch). As an ardent fan of her work in Ghost World, it was fun to see Birch as a child completely owning the role of the wisecracking younger sister. She steals the movie on more than one occasion. It was also enjoyable to see Doug Jones in a slapstick zombie performance. Though I have no nostalgia for Hocus Pocus, watching the movie now I did find myself fondly remembering the production quality of horror fantasy movies from the 1990's. Especially the darker, more Halloween-themed ones like Tim Burton's earlier work and Nicolas Roeg's take on Roald Dahl's The Witches. The detailed sets, flying broom wire work and neon lit cauldrons in Hocus Pocus are charming relics from that era, even if they're in a movie I can't stand.
Disney continues their trend with Fall catalog titles: no extras, but no skimping on a quality 1080p image. There's only the film on the disc, and yet it was given a BD-50 to make room for a solid transfer. Of course, it doesn't live up to the lofty standards of their major releases, but quality is a notch above what most studios put out for their old titles. There's a nice light grain that consistently rests over the image. The grain has a nice texture to it, but the image detail underneath is on the softer side. The image has a very warm push to it. Despite having sinister witches, a headless zombie and a green boiling cauldron, everything has a red/orange appearance to it. Compression artefacts aren't a problem, but black levels can get really soft and even have a greyish appearance at times. This seems mostly contained to VFX shots, though, so I'm willing to bet it's the result of the dated visuals and not the transfer to the digital format.
Like video, the sound on this Blu-ray release doesn't disappoint. The surround channels of this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track are especially active for an older catalog title. When witches are whooshing around on their brooms, when a crowd gathers for a celebration and when the witches break out into an unfortunate musical number, every channel is bustling with some form of activity. A lot of the sound effects feel understandably dated, but they're spaced out well in this dynamic mix. Dialogue can be hard to decipher at times, as the music often takes precedence over voices in terms of volume. It doesn't help that the witches talk in shrill baby voices, making them harder to understand. I can't say John Debney's score left any impression on me, but in this mix it feels the front channels nicely, utilizing the LFE-channel when appropriate.
A DVD copy of the film comes with the Blu-ray, but there are no extras to be found on either disc.
Hocus Pocus could very well be my earliest memory of actively disliking a movie. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III might have it beat, but it's a close one. I still think it's an irritating movie, but seeing Thora Birch and Doug Jones in early roles was a small delight. Disney gives this movie a much better transfer and audio mix than it requires, but there are no extras on the disc.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 4th September 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Kenny Ortega
Cast: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy
Genre: Comedy, Family and Fantasy
Length: 96 minutes
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