No Amount of #HocusPocus Can Save Bad Movies from Themselves. We Love ‘Em, Anyhow …

POP HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME presents LOVABLY ROTTEN FANTASY MOVIES

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: HOCUS POCUS (Walt Disney Pictures, 1993)

hoc poc poster

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, all Producers, Directors, Writers

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: This movie appears to have been a gratingly earnest attempt by Walt Disney Pictures to ca$h-in on the craving of mainstream 1990s audiences for supernatural comedies, but the finished product was more garishly ill-advised than headliner Bette Midler’s entire film career. It may even be regarded as emblematic of her oeuvre, if you ask me. More processed and synthetically cheesy than a big chunk of Velveeta burning a toxic hole through a flaking Paula Dean-brand skillet, Hocus Pocus is so bad that you keep expecting Eddie Murphy to pop-up any minute and say, “Surprise! This is really my movie. See, I didn’t cause nearly enough brain-damage with my last piece of garbage and I’m still two years away from embarrassing the hell out of myself, Angela Bassett and the human race with Vampire in Brooklyn!”

"I smell a great big, festering, career-wrecking box office FLOP!"

“I smell a great big, festering, career-wrecking box office FLOP!”

No such luck, at least as far as a ridiculous Eddie Murphy cameo, which might have actually helped this disaster make some sense. After all, even a narrative travesty ought to have some degree of self-awareness in terms of its abysmal quality, and Murphy might’ve brought that dynamic full-circle. Instead, we witness a screamingly awful, bucktoothed and bewigged Bette Midler, a mincing and desperate-to-act Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy nuke-bombing the last ramshackle bridge that spanned from her overrated turn in Sister Act to any viable future in Big-Time entertainment whatsoever. The plot? The story? Fuggedaboudit. Three sisters stupid and untalented enough to get themselves hanged for witchcraft back in olde Salem manage to resurrect themselves on Halloween night and proceed to flatten all of their enemies through the magical power of rotten dialogue, ludicrous overacting, deplorable comic timing and the merciless hurling of one mind-ulcerating horror movie cliché after another. Oh, I almost forgot: there’s also some inexplicably stupid storyline involving a black candle that needs to be lit by a virgin. You didn’t think these gifted cinematic luminaries were going to leave an important motif like that out of the equation, did you?

This film is gonna make me such a star. Bigger than that goofy little supporting turn in 'Sister Act.' I'll have to beat the offers away with a stick!"

This film is gonna make me such a star. Bigger than that goofy little supporting turn in ‘Sister Act.’ I’ll have to beat the offers away with a stick!”

As adult-fare,Hocus Pocus is a festering piece of odiferous roadkill, very much akin to the kind of roadkill one encounters routinely along the Orlando interstate while heading to Disney World for a sweltering afternoon of terminal ennui. Unfortunately there’s no Pleasure Island at the end of this crippling entertainment journey, wherein one might drink! drink! drink! the badness out of one’s head via shots of tequila or perhaps vomit the very memory of watching Hocus Pocus from one’s scarred and aggrieved soul with bloody dry heaves retched into a sparkling, Snow White-approved Disney toilet bowl.

Why, yes, this is exactly the spot into which I'm going to shove an ice-pick through my agent's brain for sending me the Hocus Pocus script. This is also the spot where I'll probably shoot myself after seeing the box office returns. Oh, well ... there's always Vegas, isn't there?"

Why, yes, this is exactly the spot into which I’m going to shove an ice-pick through my agent’s brain for sending me the Hocus Pocus script. This is also the spot where I’ll probably shoot myself after seeing the box office returns. Oh, well … there’s always Vegas, isn’t there?”

Bette Midler has made some tacky, head-scratching career moves in her day, but this one was a whopper, even for her. I have to hope believe that Bette set her own hair on fire, cartwheeled into her agent’s office and smacked him repeatedly about the the skull with a rhinestone bedroom-slipper after sitting down to a final screening of this catastrophe. Sarah Jessica Parker … well, at least she was still presumably young and eager enough to sleep her way back into contention for roles, if that’s what she had to do. It might not have mattered: Midler and Najimy are so mesmerizingly atrocious throughout the flick that you barely notice Parker’s push-up witch-boobies amid the carnage, much less her grade school-level thespian contributions. Najimy must’ve gone straight home after the premiere of Hocus Pocus and promptly placed one of her poodles in the microwave, mad with the realization that her blazing sun of Sister Act success was surely about to set on a bleak horizon of asinine Veronica’s Closet one-liners and voiceover work for Mike Judge.

"Hey, Bette, I suggested that the producers ought to rename this movie 'Hex in the City,' but they told me to button my lip and work this push-up bra with a little more moxie or they'd cut all my scenes! I'm starting to think that might be a good idea. The scene-cutting, that is."

“Hey, Bette, I suggested that the producers ought to rename this movie ‘Hex in the City,’ but they told me button my lip and work this push-up bra with a little more moxie or they’d cut all my scenes! I’m starting to think that might be a good idea. The scene-cutting, that is.”

The film bombed like a bunker-buster at the box office and critics were generally as unkind as I’m being, to put it mildly. At least my review of Hocus Pocus is satirical and meant to be a bit over-the-top funny; I respect the work of all of these entertainers, more or less. Film critic Ty Burr (of Entertainment Weekly) lambasted the movie, however, writing that it was: “… acceptable scary-silly kid fodder that adults will find only mildly insulting. Unless they’re Bette Midler fans. In which case it’s depressing as hell … the sight of the Divine Miss M mugging her way through a cheesy supernatural kiddie comedy is, to say the least, dispiriting.”

Ouch.

Despite years of mocking from peanut galleries far more prominent than my own, Hocus Pocus did indeed go on to become something of a cult-classic on DVD-Video/Blu-Ray, where so many egregious flops have an opportunity to redeem themselves financially, if not artistically. The relative success of the film on video as a kiddie crowd-pleaser makes a lot more sense because children don’t really give a rat’s ass about Bette Midler’s dubious track record, unless they are possibly going to emerge as gay children. It might be a good idea to arm yourself with some helpful pamphlets about affirmative parenting if your eight year-old son watches this film at home and you catch him making a remark like: “Bette’s sharpest instincts were clearly not at play when she opted for the role of Winifred Sanderson. Winifred Sanderson is badly lit. Winifred Sanderson’s coiffure is unflattering. Winifred Sanderson’s rendition of ‘I Put a Spell on You’ is nothing short of ghastly! Who’s responsible for these horrifying arrangements?”

Yeah, prepare.

As mindless fluff-stuff for five and six year olds around Halloween, Hocus Pocus is ideal, minus Parker’s nicely overemphasized rack and the genuinely warped & creepy subplot involving a black candle and a virgin-girl. This fact alone, however, underscores the reasons why the movie remains so utterly repellent as suitable fantasy entertainment for anyone literate over the age of fourteen; the flick was marketed to a primarily adult audience. Yikes. One hopes that Bette Midler’s agent lived long enough to secure better parts for other actors and, hopefully, Midler herself made some sort of back-end $$$ deal with video distributors to assuage her lifelong humiliation. Money’s good like that. We all know that Sarah Jessica Parker survived this train-wreck to inspire millions of fashionable women and gay guys to become jovial, Cosmo-swilling alcoholics via Sex and the City, and Kathy Najimy really did do some excellent –even iconic– voiceover work as the feisty Peggy Hill in genius Mike Judge’s classic (and sinfully underrated) King of the Hill series.

Never fear. A determined actor or writer can overcome any mega-bomb. Sometimes all it takes, ironically, is a little hocus pocus.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “Oh, cheese and crust! He’s lost his head!” — Bette Midler as “Winifred Sanderson.” (Yeah … tons of cheese, abundant crustiness, and loss of brain matter are hallmarks of the Hocus Pocus viewing experience for adults.)

EXPERIENCE THE BADNESS: Watch Sarah Jessica Parker “sing,” writhe and make stilted emotive gestures with her spindly arms while her breasts cast a spell on unsuspecting trick-or-treaters.

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If you’re bored and don’t have any Japanese eyeballs to lick, hop on over to Jonathan Kieran’s Official Facebook Page and give it a Like!

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Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
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Rowan Blaize Official Website
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POP HAZMAT CULT MOVIES WE ADORE! GALAXY QUEST posted by Jonathan Kieran

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A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the Rowan Blaize series of books!

Book One = The magical cornerstone – a lavishly illustrated epic poem and “spell” to treasure for a lifetime, telling the story of sorcerer Rowan Blaize’s fall from power. (Think Beowulf-meets-Dr.Seuss)

Book Two = The rip-roaring novel that continues the adventures of Rowan Blaize and introduces the three hilarious witches of the Ancient City, along with its dysfunctional werewolves, wraiths, ghosts, vampires, dryads, banshees and a beauty pageant brat that might just destroy the world.

Book Three = The novel that finds Rowan trapped by a spell in another world, caught between a faery-squashing sorceress who’ll stop at nothing to conquer the kingdom … and a feisty teenage prince who’s determined to get it back.
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POP HAZMAT HALL OF FAME: CULT MOVIES WE ADORE!

TODAY’S ILLUSTRIOUS HONOREE: GALAXY QUEST (1999) DreamWorks. Posted by JONATHAN KIERAN

You won't find a more hysterically funny --or affectionate-- send-up of Sci-Fi and Sci-Fi Fandom!

You won’t find a more hysterically funny –or affectionate– send-up of Sci-Fi and Sci-Fi Fandom!

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, etc.

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Few contemporary satirical films ever manage to truly “send-up” a particular cinematic genre with any kind of enduring quality. Christopher Guest’s series of so-called “mockumentaries” (Spinal Tap, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, etc.) are almost all uniformly brilliant, but they tend to satirize different forms of American entertainment, rather than specific film categories. The first Scary Movie installment did a halfway decent job of spoofing slasher-films, but any impact it may have had was diminished due to the overkill (pun intended) of several stultifying sequels and roughly a thousand other moribund “parody-flicks” that subsequently tried to capitalize on the churn-’em-out trend of lambasting blockbusters of every description. The sight of blowsy Jennifer Coolidge in Epic Movie, heaving her gargantuan bosom and lisping half-baked, pedestrian one-liners as the “White Witch of Narnia” was probably enough to sink the listing ship of foolish mock-the-box-office pics for at least a few decades. We should thank her for rendering such a valuable service.

Like Jehovah's Witnesses on high-doses of Prozac, the Thermians are some of cinema's most memorably funny "aliens".

Like Jehovah’s Witnesses on high-doses of Prozac, the Thermians are some of cinema’s most memorably funny “aliens”.

One film, however, that seems to have danced to perfection the delicate pas de deux required to satirize with a blend of scathing humor and genuine affection is 1999’s fabulous Galaxy Quest. The movie was a both a critical and financial success upon release and its reputation has grown deservedly over the years. Essentially a satire of the Star Trek franchise, its enthusiastic fan-base, and of the “fanboy” culture in general, Galaxy Quest brought together a disparate and almost improbable troupe of gifted actors who managed to stun audiences with a tour de force of comedic charisma. The premise was deviously delicious: a group of past-their-prime actors who had once starred on a popular spaceship-adventure TV series are in the doldrums, making the rounds of comic-book and autograph-signing conventions that are populated by the earnest admirers only science fiction and fantasy genres can engender. Their lives aren’t exactly difficult, but each of the former stars is struggling with the pitfalls and personal repercussions of parading around as a cult figure based upon a fictional character that hasn’t been relevant in years. (Spare a thought for those slightly befuddled actors who really do have to earn a living sitting behind tables at today’s fan conventions — Galaxy Quest captures the poignancy of that circumstance with sharp-but-empathic humor.) In any case, our seemingly “has-been” heroes find themselves suddenly kidnapped by the Thermians — actual alien beings who, like fans, have obsessed “from afar” over the power of the old TV show’s episodes (“The Histories”), the spaceship, and the indomitability of its “crew”. The Thermians (squid-like creatures who seem to take the forms of Jehovah’s Witnesses on high doses of Prozac) believe that only this motley bunch of actors possesses the mettle to save their species from extinction at the hands of a hostile reptilian race led by a villain named Sarris, who appears to be the love-child of the original Star Trek’s “Gorn” and one of the rubbery old Sleestaks from Sid & Marty Krofft’s The Land of the Lost. The hilarity kicks into hyper-space gear as the old show’s players discover that they are expected to reassume their fictional roles aboard … you guessed it: a mammoth real-life “duplicate” of their old TV starship, which was originally made out of plastic and a couple of ping pong balls.

Sigourney Weaver is a comedic revelation, playing a real "space-cadet" light years removed from Ellen Ripley.

Sigourney Weaver is a comedic revelation, playing a real “space-cadet” light years removed from Ellen Ripley.

It helped that the writing for Galaxy Quest was superb. David Howard and Robert Gordon kept things imaginative, razor-sharp and continually affectionate in terms of showing respect for the Star Trek series itself and for the unwavering dedication and near-scholarly knowledge of its legions of fans. The cast had to have been a film-maker’s dream, for this sort of project. Funnyman Tim Allen (Home Improvement) swaggered, scowled, bared his chest, and paused theatrically as the captain — bringing just the right mix of pathos and comedic timing to properly spoof William Shatner without mocking him. Sigourney Weaver shows up completely against type as the ship’s blonde, buxom, jaded and somewhat airheaded communications specialist, revealing aisle-rolling comedic talent I had not seen from her before and have not seen since. Tony Shalhoub brought his inimitable zen-charm and steady cool to the role of the ship’s engineer, while the great Alan Rickman practically stole the entire film with his portrayal of a frustrated Shakespearean actor forced to wear a ludicrous “alien” cranial prosthetic and repeat the corniest science-fiction show signature-line imaginable. Without revealing too much more and spoiling the vast scope of fun to be had by those who have never seen the film, I highly encourage all fans of fandom, and of the sci-fi/fantasy genre in particular to rent this classic without hesitation and get the microwave ready for a bag or two of popcorn. You won’t be offended by the parody of all things Star Trek or “Trekkie”. On the contrary, you’ll cheer along with the millions who have already taken Galaxy Quest to their hearts with pride … and with the ringing endorsement of “Grabthar’s Hammer.”

Alan Rickman nearly steals the show as the highly embarrassed and disenchanted "Dr. Lazarus".

Alan Rickman nearly steals the show as the highly embarrassed and disenchanted “Dr. Lazarus”.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “By Grabthar’s Hammer, by the sons of Warvan, you SHALL be avenged!” (Alan Rickman as “Dr. Lazarus”)

BEHOLD THE GREATNESS: Chompers? You bet.