Review: Weaver, Kline shine in ‘The Good House;’ Sanderson Sisters return in ‘Hocus Pocus 2’

Morena Baccarin, Sigourney Weaver and Beverly D’Angelo in The Good House(Amblin Partners)

Sometimes you forget why some actors are stars, and then a movie like “The Good House” reminds you, and that’s just a comforting and joyful feeling.

The new comedy-drama “The Good House,” based on the 2013 novel by Ann Leary, might not go down as one of the top films that Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline have performed in, but it’s certainly a reminder of why their work is beloved for an array of roles over the last 40-something years.

Even playing a drunk and a grump, the two have class, charm and charisma that’s a pleasure to watch even while the movie itself veers toward middling level, especially with a bit of unexpected drama in the third act.

While “The Good House” might not be a great film, it is charming, witty, and touching as Weaver plays a 60-something, fourth-wall breaking real-estate agent on Boston’s North Shore, who is having a tough time financially and privately because of an alcohol problem. Even after a stint in rehab, Weaver’s character Hildy Good is back on the bottle as soon as she can get her hands on some booze.

Breaking the fourth wall can be annoying if not done well, but Weaver pulls it off here with aplomb. She, however, is an unreliable narrator because her character isn’t navigating her world as craftily as she implies. She breaks open one bottle of wine after another as she escorts us through the movie.

Kline plays the somewhat eccentric and definitely scruffy Frank Getchell, a former beau of Hildy’s who is one of the richest guys in town, but spends his time as contractor, house renovator, snow-shoveler, and junk man.

Of course they rekindle their romance and the fun ensues. The two had great chemistry in the 1993 Capra-esque political comedy “Dave.” They were also strong together as a husband and wife falling apart in 1997’s “The Ice Storm,” and their chemistry together here is the main reason to see this solidly directed movie by the team of Mia Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky, who penned the screenplay with Thomas Bezucha.

The supporting cast is excellent with Rebecca Henderson and Molly Brown as her concerned but gripey grown daughters, David Rasche as her ex-husband who left her for a man, and Rob Delaney, her psychiatrist who is having an affair with a married woman (Morena Baccarin).

Again the film is enjoyable for the performances, but the change in tone as the film winds up is abrupt and off-putting.

The Good House
(R)???1 hr. 43 min.
Grade: B-

Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy in Hocus Pocus 2 (Walt Disney Pictures)

If you are a fan of the original “Hocus Pocus” from 1993, its sequel should make for an excellent pre-Halloween treat from Disney Plus as the story of the Sanderson Sisters continues and their scary origin is told for all to behold.

I enjoyed the spooky yet harmless hokum of “Hocus Pocus” when I took my niece and nephew to see the film — which stars Bette Midler, Kathy Najimi, and Sarah Jessica Parker as Winnie, Mary, and Sarah Sanderson — when the film originally opened 29 years ago, but I never imagined it would boast the cult following it developed over the years that has now swollen into mainstream popularity.

No one would have thought back then that the movie which was lukewarmly reviewed and somewhat of a box office flop could muster the popularity to spawn a sequel so many years later, but here it is.

The great thing is that the sequel which brings back the trio of witches is actually good. It’s not quite as dark as the original, but it’s just as fun with the Sanderson Sisters, who were loosely based off the Three Stooges, being just scary enough to provoke some fright and a whole lot of laughter for kids of all ages.

The movie won’t be considered for an Oscar, but I’m a bit surprised Disney did not open this film in theaters.

Direction by Anne Fletcher is assured, and I’d argue the sequel is better paced than the original. The screenplay by Jen D’Angelo walks a near perfect line between scary and fun that isn’t easy to accomplish. This streaming sequel is as entertaining if not more so than a majority of what’s released for kids in cinemas on a regular basis.

The movie’s plot is basic but fun with two high-school friends Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) accidentally conjuring the Sanderson Sister and victim Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones) back to life by lighting the mysterious Black Flame Candle. They must team with their former friend and popular girl Cassie (Lillia Buckingham) with the help of Gilbert (Sam Richardson), the owner of Olde Salem Magic Shop, to defeat the witches.

We learn how the Sanderson Sister became witches as teens after a run-in with The Witch (Hannah Waddingham) in an ominous flashback.

The movie delivers a number of fun musical numbers, tons of nostalgia, and new lore to boot. The unexpected message deeply planted within all the spooky fun hits home in a delightful way.

Hocus Pocus 2 (Disney Plus)
(PG)??1 hr. 43 min.
Grade: B

New in Local Theaters

The Good House (R) 1 hr. 43 min. (trailer)
AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle

Smile (R) 1 hr. 55 min (trailer)
AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne, Malco Pinnacle, Skylight

Bros (R) 1 hr. 55 min. (trailer)
AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne, Malco Pinnacle

Prem Geet 3 (NR) 2 hr. (trailer)
AMC Fiesta Square

Ponniyin Selvan: Part One (NR) 2 hr. 50 min. (trailer)
Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills

Classic Corner: The Mummy and The Bride of Frankenstein double feature

Boris Karloff in The Mummy (Universal Pictures)

In conjunction with Fathom Events, the Malco Razorback Cinema is serving up a Halloween treat at 1 p.m. Saturday with a double feature of the Universal Pictures classics “The Mummy” (1932) and “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) on the big screen.

Both films star Boris Karloff, arguably the greatest movie-monster actor of all time, as the titular character in “The Mummy” and as Frankenstein’s monster in “The Bride.”

The Mummy

“The Mummy” went into production quickly after Universal discovered it had tapped into a goldmine with 1931’s Valentine’s release of “Dracula” and “Frankenstein’s” unearthing later that winter.

Karloff’s performance as the creature in “Frankenstein” vaulted the once starving actor, who had played supporting roles in dozens of silent films prior to dawning Universal’s chief make-up artist Jack Pierce’s classic monster get-up, to star status.

“Frankenstein” put Karloff at the front of the breadline for every horror part — even ahead of Bela Lugosi after his success in “Dracula.” — because Karloff proved to be so emotive in the make-up and also easier to work with.

The somewhat recent Egyptian archaeological finds of the 1920s and the fascination with them made the Mummy a sure-fire character for adaptation to the silver screen by Universal. With no popular novel to crib from, screenwriter John L. Balderston basically reworked the script from “Dracula,” just draping it with Egyptian iconography rather than central European and British.

The sets for the “The Mummy” are gorgeous and highlighted with sumptuous and chilling cinematography by Charles Stumar, but rather stiff directing by Karl Freund. The movie’s pace might be a step or three too slow for modern audiences, but the basic of plot of the Mummy, who takes the name Ardeth Bey, trying to court a modern woman Helen (Zita Johann) whom he believes is actually his reincarnated lover Princess Ankh-essen-amun, is fairly solid for a super-natural horror flick even today. I mean love will make you do some pretty strange stuff.

While certainly atmospheric, the film wasn’t the hit that “Frankenstein” or “Dracula” was and did not spawn a direct sequel. Universal’s Mummy series of films in the 1940s played with the same ideas, but was a different character than Karloff’s named Kharis. They were much cheaper B-list movies.

“The Mummy” might be a long watch for some even with a run time of just 73 minutes, but the creepy atmosphere, excellent set design and fantastic make-up is a must-see for horror aficionados, and there is no better place to see it than on the big screen.

The Bride of Frankenstein

While “The Mummy” is a bit stiff, “The Bride of Frankenstein” is definitely not.

It’s the gold standard of Universal Studios’ monster films with Colin Clive returning from the original as the mad doctor and Karloff as his sympathetically loathsome creation. Elsa Lanchester is featured as the Bride and as well as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the writer of the novel that inspired the film, in a brief epilogue.

However the standout performance in the film is by Ernest Thesiger as the malevolent Dr. Pretorius, who tempts Dr. Frankenstein back into the monster-making game even after his horrific first results.

The film is a classic and is generally considered by critics of the day and film historians as a superior movie to the original. The Universal films are decidedly different than the novel, but “The Bride” does introduce ideals from Shelly’s masterpiece that were not included in the original film.

The movie is by far director James Whale’s best film. It boasts the largest budget of all the Universal monster films of its era, and Whale gets it all on screen.

One could easily argue that Karloff’s performance in 1931’s “Frankenstein” is better and more chilling, but “The Bride” shows the character maturing. The scenes with the blind old man in his cabin are heartwarming and humorous as both characters find a friend.

The emergence of the monster from a flooded basement of the old mill where he seemingly fell to his death in the first scenes of the movie are about as scary as Universal horror gets.

The scenes between Clive and Thesiger as Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius have their first meeting of minds are extra creepy as Dr. Pretorius shows off the miniature creations he made that are at once charming and very weird.

The Bride herself has little screen time, but it is impactful as she shuns the monster just like everyone else.

While I deeply love Universal horror movies for all that they are and aren’t, “The Bride of Frankenstein” is a must-see movie for movie buffs and serious film fans of all stripes. Universal horror films were never better than this movie before or after its debut.

Both movies are also streaming now on Peacock along with many of the other Universal and Hammer horror pictures as a lead-in to the Halloween season.