RT Podcast

"Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong" About... Hocus Pocus

This Rotten Halloween favorite is still conjuring box office magic: Did the critics get it wrong, or are millions of Millennials too bewitched by nostalgia to see its warts?

by | October 22, 2020 | Comments

Hocus Pocus
(Photo by © Buena Vista/courtesy Everett Collection)

Sometimes we forget what came first out of Hocus Pocus and Halloween itself, so firmly attached has the 1993 film become to the ghoulish October holiday. It seems that every year, as regular as the changing of the leaves, Millennials drag this Disney comedy out from its dormancy like three youth-obsessed cacklers to revel once more in its over-the-top performances, zany musical numbers, and lashings of nostalgia. People still can’t get enough: Just two weeks ago Hocus Pocus was number 3 at the U.S. box office, and a reunion special is set to air shortly.

Back when it first flew into theaters though, the movie couldn’t even crack the top three, opening in fourth spot before disappearing quickly. Reviews too were far from magical, with critics lamenting that while Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy were great fun as Salem’s back-from-beyond Sanderson sisters, all that delicious ham was wasted on a film that was too full of plot and ideas on the one hand (bullies! zombies!), and mediocre at best on the other. (Also: Did two kids just die in the opening sequence!? And what is with all this virginity chat!?)


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Just like Winnie, Sarah, and Mary, though, Kenny Ortega’s film had something of a second life, casting its spell on millions of youngsters when it hit home video and, crucially, the Disney Channel. Those kids grew up and have pushed its Audience Score way up to 71%, just shy of double its Rotten 37% Tomatometer. Which is some divide. And so, with our fire good and caldron bubbling, we’re asking in our latest episode of podcast Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong: Is Hocus Pocus actually a good film dismissed too quickly back in the day? Or is it just as bad as the critics said it was, its fans’ vision fogged up by nostalgia-colored glasses (worn over the top of the two holes in their ghost sheets).

Joining hosts Jacqueline Coley and Mark Ellis is Syfy Wire Associate Features Editor Caitlin M. Busch, who has some definite thoughts on the beloved, bizarre, and strangely horny Halloween classic.


Be sure to check in every Thursday for a new episode of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong (A Podcast From Rotten Tomatoes). Each week, hosts Jacqueline and Mark and guests go deep and settle the score on some of the most beloved – and despised – movies and TV shows ever made, directly taking on the statement we hear from so many fans: “Rotten Tomatoes is wrong.”

If you have a suggestion for a movie or show you think we should do an episode on, let us know in the comments, or email us at rtiswrong@rottentomatoes.com.


Meet the hosts

Jacqueline Coley is an editor at Rotten Tomatoes, with a focus on awards and indie coverage but with a passion for everything, from the MCU to musicals and period pieces. Coley is a regular moderator at conventions and other events, can be seen on Access Hollywood and other shows, and will not stand Constantine slander of any kind. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter: @THATjacqueline.

Mark Ellis is a comedian and contributing editor for Rotten Tomatoes. He currently hosts the Rotten Tomatoes series Versus, among others, and can be seen co-hosting the sports entertainment phenomenon Movie Trivia Schmoedown. His favorite Star Wars movie is Jedi (guess which one!), his favorite person is actually a dog (his beloved stepdaughter Mollie), and – thanks to this podcast – he’s about to watch Burlesque for the first time in his life. Follow Mark on Twitter: @markellislive.


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