First Impressions: Hocus Pocus (1993)

Joyeux fête d’Halloween, mes amis! And welcome to my very first First Impressions review of Kenny Ortega’s 1993 Halloween comedy, Hocus Pocus, starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy.

Previous Knowledge of the Film: I might have seen a clip or two years ago, but I was too busy trying to figure out what was up with Midler’s dentures to pay attention to the plot. This series got started because my coworker, A., was scandalized that I had not seen it. So this review is for her.

Recap: On Halloween night, Max, the new kid in Salem, Massachusetts, accidentally resurrects the three witchy Sanderson sisters, who seek to steal the souls of little children to make themselves immortal.

First Impressions:

  1. I was always told that running away from your problems won’t solve them, but in this movie, it seems like a lot of Max, Dani, and Allison’s problems could be solved by running away. Seriously, they just stand there when there are three bloodthirsty witches riding brooms and coming to kill them!! They could have avoided capture so many times if they had just remembered they had mobile legs. I can’t count the number of times I screamed at the TV, “RUN! RUN! GET THE HECK OUT OF THERE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
  2. Is this the movie that got Parker the role of Carrie Bradshaw?
  3. Emily is the most useless character in the film. Unless Winifred, Mary, and Sarah put her in a trance, which is never indicated, no little kid would be that obedient when his or her life is being threatened.
  4. Dani is my new favorite little sister from popular culture. She’s cute, funny, sassy, and quite perceptive. She annoys and embarrasses her brother, but she doesn’t annoy the audience like so many younger sibling characters do. And the relationship between her and Max is sweet and surprisingly believable. She’s easily the best child character in the film.
  5. Midler is the reigning queen of all things campy and awesome. “I Put a Spell on You” is the best part of the whole movie, in my opinion. Even better than “Come Little Children.” I don’t understand why they gave that song to Parker when they had Bette Midler as their lead actress. That’s like casting Broadway veteran Jonathan Groff in Frozen and giving him a throwaway one-minute musical segway. Oh well, Midler’s song is the one I’ve had on repeat since seeing this movie, not Parker’s.
  6. Max and Allison are pretty boring as characters and as a couple. Max is the fast-talking moronic dweeb who tries to put on a tough act and fails miserably. Allison is your basic 90’s pretty girl with no backstory, no character development, and who only exists as a prize for the hero. Been there, seen that. I’d have liked to see a little more depth in these two, especially since Dani is such a great character, but this movie really isn’t about the kids; it’s about the witches.
  7. … Are you sure this is a children’s movie?
  8. Was there an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie dated a NYC bus driver and he let her sit on his lap while she drove the bus around the city on a romantic date? Because it would be just as weird as it is in this movie.
  9. OK. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS MOVIE’S OBSESSION WITH MAX’S VIRGINITY. The constant jokes about this are creepy and totally unnecessary. Why is this point so important aside from the virgin-lighting-the-black-candle thing? We can guess that Max is probably younger than 16 because he doesn’t have a learner’s permit. So why does this movie make fun of a very young teenage boy who’s still a virgin? Is it supposed to embarrass Max in front of Allison? Does that make him less attractive or more attractive in her eyes? Are we supposed to infer that Allison is not a virgin? Why does this matter? Is this what casual sexism looked like in 1993? I need answers!
  10. I know that everyone usually talks about SJP and Midler, but I’d like to see more of Najimy’s work. As she’s mostly done television, that would mean me watching a lot of stuff that I haven’t seen but everyone else has … Oh, wait.

Final Thoughts: It’s easy to see why this movie has such a nostalgic value to it. It’s clearly a product of the ’90s, when children’s movies showed all their adult characters in a ridiculous and idiotic light and the children outsmarted the adults in childish, slapsticky ways. This movie was released the year after I was born, and I never saw it growing up, so it doesn’t have the same sense of nostalgia for me that it has for many people. However, Hocus Pocus was a ton of fun to watch and I liked it despite its many flaws. On the Worth Meter, I give it a Worth Owning Used.

Hope you enjoyed this review! For next time, the theme is: Love Stories. Please leave a comment below with your vote. One vote per person, please.

  1. Amélie (2001)
  2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
  3. The English Patient (1996)

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful Halloween!

“I put a spell on yooo-hoooo and noooooooooooow you’re mine!”

À la prochaine!

– Vicky

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First Impressions: An Introduction

Bonjour, mes amis!

Today is the beginning of an all-new series on this blog and I’m so excited to share it with you.

I love movies. I love talking about movies, watching movies, and binge-watching movie reviews on YouTube way more than television. That’s not to say that TV can’t be good or enjoyable, but I personally can’t make the commitment to sit down at the same time every week to watch the next episode or spend an entire weekend watching a whole series on Netflix. The only reason I still have Netflix is for the instant streaming movies and DVD delivery. I would rather watch a whole story completed in two and a half hours as opposed to several seasons of 60-minute morsels. But that’s just me.

I’ve seen a lot of movies over the past 23 years, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. (Actually, I haven’t seen that one.) However, whenever I talk about movies, there’s a good chance that someone will bring up a really popular movie that I haven’t seen. And when I reveal that I have not seen said movie, this person’s reaction runs along the lines of “WHAAAT?! HOW HAVE YOU NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE? HOW ARE YOU STILL CONSIDERED A HUMAN?! PUT YOUR ENTIRE LIFE ON HOLD BECAUSE YOU NEED TO SEE THIS MOVIE RIGHT NOW!”

Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of beloved and popular movies that I had not seen up until 2014 or so: Naked Gun. Spaceballs. A Christmas Story. Clueless. (500) Days of Summer. Enchanted. A Muppet Christmas Carol.

See my point?

In an effort to shorten my Netflix queue, I present “First Impressions,” a series in which I will write short reviews of popular movies that I somehow missed. These might be scattered thoughts or full-blown analyses, but I will try to keep them under 200 words. For a rating system, I’ll be using the Worth Meter used by YouTubers like Matt Guion, found here. Then, I will present three choices for my next review, and YOU, my beloved readers, will vote on which movie I just have to see next.

This idea was partly inspired by a conversation with a coworker, who was horrified that I had somehow missed a certain Halloween classic.

Therefore, my first review will be of the trippiest, scariest movie to came out of 1993: Hocus Pocus.

À bientôt! 

– Vicky

TAPIF: One Year Later

At the beginning of October 2014, I began my year in Compiègne with the Teaching Assistant Program in France. One year ago.

I was supposed to arrive at the end of September, but plane engine issues coupled with airport strikes in Paris (Ah, la joie des grèves françaises!) delayed my arrival in France by 10 hours. However, I arrived. And what a year I had!

When many people describe a profound experience, they say it “changed my life.” This often implies that something (a quality, an idea, a person) was missing before the event took place. My seven months in Compiègne were not life-changing in the sense that I became someone I wasn’t. Rather, I changed because qualities that lay dormant in me were revived and strengthened, and even some faults were diminished. I begin to think that growth is not so much an addition or subtraction as it is a refinement of spirit. If God formed us fearfully and wonderfully, He must have given us everything we need to go through life, and sends people or experiences into our lives accordingly to draw out and refine these different qualities in us.

I’m not going to write a “listicle” for this topic because it’s too simple. Rather, I’ll just share two of the most poignant lessons from my time in France, hopefully in a semi-coherent manner.

I’ll be honest: I’m no expert on children.  I took a babysitting class in middle school, but there were never any kids in my neighborhood to babysit, and my youngest cousins lived far away. I never took a pedagogy class in college. So no, I didn’t really know what I was in for when I accepted a position teaching middle school English. Since I returned home, I’ve gotten a lot of messages from prospective teaching assistants expressing the same fear: “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never taught anyone anything! How am I supposed to teach them for a whole year?” To those assistants who might be reading this post: you don’t need a long resume of teaching experience to do this. You just need to be a resource.

On January 7, 2015, the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were attacked, and many of France’s prominent political cartoonists were killed. The next day, I walked into my weekly conversation club with a lesson all ready. One of my students raised his hand and said, “Miss, can we talk about Charlie Hebdo?” I could see the fear and pain in the eyes of my 12- and 13-year-old students, so I agreed. We spent the whole hour discussing the event (in English) and I said very little. The class carried the conversation all on its own. My only remark was at the end of the lesson: “There are many people in the United States who are thinking of you and who support you.”

Kids are used to adults not taking them seriously. It used to infuriate me when I was younger, and I’m sure it was the same for you. The best thing you can be for any child is a willing listener.

Outside from teaching, I became bolder. I learned bite the bullet of fear and take chances, especially when it came to meeting new friends.

There is a stereotype that the French are not as friendly and open as Americans are. In my experience, this is only partly true. Most of the French people I met were very friendly and open, especially once they found out I could speak French well. But it was not the same smothering friendliness that you often see from Americans. It was a reserved politeness that slowly, organically developed into friendship.

I found out about the Communauté Chrétienne des Étudiants (Catholic community at the local university), a week or two after I arrived. It took me another month to work up the courage to attend a meeting. What sort of community was this? What if they never had an international student before? What if my French wasn’t good enough? And was I even allowed to join because I wasn’t a student?

God makes swift work of our doubts when we trust Him and take a leap of faith. I attended my first CCE Mass and dinner in November, and my only regret was not going sooner! In this community, I found warm, welcoming people from all over France and the world who cared about me and made me feel at home. Some of my best memories of the year come from this community. It was so wonderful to make real French friends!

And of course, I can’t forget the other language assistants I met from all over the world, an eclectic little family of expats that supported one another exploring a new country. And abundant kindness flowed in from my roommates, my coworkers, my students and their families, and even the everyday compiègnois. Most greeted me with a kind bonjour and smile, and many went beyond the call of politeness, inviting me to dinners and parties, or taking me on excursions to tourist sites in the area. It was truly heartbreaking to leave a place that had become like home in less than a year.

Toward the end of my stay, I thanked as many people as I could in person for their welcome and hospitality. One friend responded,  “It was nothing. You were so dynamic and happy that you fit right in.”

Goodness attracts goodness. You don’t have to be an outgoing or extroverted person to find friends in a strange land. You just need to be present, be open, be kind. There will be times of loneliness and homesickness, and that’s OK. But if you have courage enough to reach outside of yourself, you will make a home wherever you go.

Merci à tous qui m’a très bien accueillir pendant mon séjour à Compiègne. And bon courage to all the new language assistants in France this year.

À bientôt!

– Vicky