Completely bonkers ‘Hocus Pocus’ fundraiser reunites cast, overflows with celebrity cameos

Completely bonkers ‘Hocus Pocus’ fundraiser reunites cast, overflows with celebrity cameos

Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY
Published 10:20 p.m. ET Oct. 30, 2020 | Updated 10:36 p.m. ET Oct. 30, 2020

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They put a spell on you in “Hocus Pocus,” and now the Sanderson sisters are back!

USA TODAY

It’s been 27 years since “Hocus Pocus” premiered. Have you missed the Sanderson Sisters?

Bette Midler thought you might, and that’s why she got the cast of her classic Halloween film back together to (virtually) reunite for a video to raise money for the New York Restoration Project, her organization dedicated to improving New York City’s infrastructure and greenery. 

And the hour-long event was completely bonkers, but in a way that seemed to cast a laughing spell with its campiness. For $10 a ticket, viewers were treated to the original witches played by Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy in authentic-looking outfits, as well as nonsensical celebrity cameos in the event called “In Search of the Sanderson Sisters: A Hocus Pocus Hulaween Takeover.” (Hulaween is part of Midler’s annual NYRP fundraiser.)

So, what happened in the video? Much of it was a mockumentary hosted by Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark (Cassandra Peterson, joined by a spell book voiced by George Lopez) about searching for the “Hocus Pocus” witches. Stars talked about their personal experience with the witches, or played characters themselves while telling stories. For example, Meryl Streep reminisced (with an adorable dog behind her) about a run-in with Winifred when she was preparing to get into her witch costume for the movie “Into the Woods.” Glenn Close, in a black-and-white wig as “101 Dalmatians” villain Cruella de Vil, chewed all scenery available and talked about how her distant relative taught harpsichord to the Sanderson Sisters, who cursed her when she called them pitchy.

The inexplicable cameos continued: Martin Short played a character called Damien Darkside. John Stamos took on the role of the devil (and used his flirty moment on camera to wear an “I voted” sticker and talk about how right now “the Earth is worse than hell”). Billy Crystal reprised his role of Miracle Max from “The Princess Bride” to comment about “the king, who lives in the big white house” and “wants me to make candies with bleach.” Alex Moffat put on a cat costume to be Thackery Binx from the movie, and Billy Eichner and Alex Brightman played relatives of Harry Potter who discussed how the Sanderson Sisters were the first students to ever be expelled from Hogwarts.

No, the plot of the fundraising video didn’t make sense, but it did bring back the actors from the original film, including back-from-the-dead Billy Butcherson (Doug Shaw), virgin Max (Omri Katz), the girl he likes, Allison (Vinessa Shaw), and Max’s little sister Dani (Thora Birch). 

And it featured welcome though out-of-nowhere songs from Adam Lambert, Jennifer Hudson, Todrick Hall (who dressed as a fourth Sanderson Sister) and, of course, witches Midler, Parker (who at one point did a silly “Sex and the City”-style voiceover) and Najimy.

The reunion special also included enough scenes with Winifred to show that Midler can still channel that outrageous character perfectly. Frankly, Midler stole her own show with classic facial reactions while knocking on the doors of people including Kenan Thompson, Michael Kors and Jamie Lee Curtis (who, in true horror queen form, screamed several times when the door opened). 

Eventually, Winifred knocked on Mariah Carey’s door, and the diva ended the show once and for all. “I got news for you, girl,” she said. “Halloween’s nearly over. It’s my turn now so get out.”

Carey claiming her ownership of Christmas was the only thing that made sense in the entire hour of “Hocus Pocus” silliness. 

From the archives: Our original review of film “Hocus Pocus”

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