Brothers and Sisters
by JESSICA FERRI
Binx is a young, sweaty boy living in Salem when his little sister is abducted by the Sanderson sisters, a group of witches living in the woods. Not only does he fail to save her but in the process he’s turned into a cat and forced to live forever with his guilt. The witches are hanged, but Winifred, the eldest, manages to cast in spell — that if a virgin lights the black flame candle they will be brought back from the dead. Fast forward 300 years. Much to the dismay of the 300 year old Binx, hot shot Max Dennison, whose family has just moved to Salem from Los Angeles, lights the candle to impress a girl named Allison (Vinessa Shaw), who has excellent “yaboos." The sisters return; chaos reigns.
When the movie begins, Max’s relationship with his younger sister Dani (Thora Birch) is on the rocks. He hates Salem — he misses his friends in L.A. and he’s become the victim of bullying. Now Dani wants him to take her trick-or-treating. "Take your candy and get out of my life," he tells her. But when they stumble upon Alison’s house (the girl from school who Max has a crush on) Max lights the candle to impress her, and now the three of them, joined by Binx the immortal cat, must bond together to defeat the Sisters.
Winifred, on the other hand, can’t get her sisters to do anything she wants. She’s cursed with them — Sarah Jessica Parker, the hopped up sex bimbo, and Kathy Najimy, the slapstick fat girl. Winifred is an excellent sorceress, and she’s only interested in how she can use her sisters to get what she wants. There’s no love lost here. She’s a witch but she’s also a bad big sister, making her undeniably evil. This is a Disney film.
Hocus Pocus deals very seriously with the trials and tribulations of sibling relationships. Binx embodies the white knight though he’s stuck in the body of the symbol of bad omens, the black cat. His guilt over losing Emily is overwhelming, and he sees Dani as a second chance. If he can help Max and Dani repair their relationship, then together they can defeat the Sanderson sisters, and Binx’s soul will finally be released. It’s easy for Binx to fall in love with Dani, the adorable Thora Birch, who reminds him of the sister he lost so long ago.
In a moment when Max thinks he’s defeated the Sisters, Binx tells him "Take good care of Dani, Max. You’ll never know how precious she is, until you lose her." Binx runs off, but Max tells him “Where do you think you’re going buddy? You’re a Dennison now. You're one of us." Even though Binx is glad the Sanderson sisters are gone, his sorrow over Emily remains. But Binx will have another chance to save Emily — this time, it’s Dani who’s been abducted by the sisters — and now Max and Binx will both have to fight to save her.
Of course Max’s crew is victorious — Winifed can’t get her book full of magic spells back in time (she has until sunrise) and the three sisters are turned to dust. But her real failing is her resentement of her sisters, who she sees as dead weight. She doesn’t love them like Binx and Max love Dani. And so, the good big siblings win. Thackery Binx is finally returned to his boy form, his pilgrim top fluttering in the breeze. Before he leaves, Binx tells Dani "I shall always be with you," and kisses her on the cheek. Emily appears, calling "Thackery, Thackery Binx! What took thee so long?" He famously replies, “Sorry Emily! I had to wait three hundred years for a virgin to light a candle." Max's virgin-status may change as he and Alison smile knowingly at each other. As Binx and Emily walk off into the sunset, Max and Dani’s relationship is also repaired: she tells him "I love you, jerkface." Dani is happy for Binx but sorry to lose him — her tearful smile says it all, as we close with Dani being embraced by her new protector — her big brother.
For all the big brothers and sisters out there who are taking their younger siblings trick or treating, or for those only children who have a Binx in their lives — a very Happy Halloween to you and yours.
Jessica Ferri is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She blogs here.
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