Hocus Pocus 2 Review

Plot:  It’s been 29 years since someone lit the Black Flame Candle and resurrected the 17th-century sisters, and they are looking for revenge. Now it is up to three high-school students to stop the ravenous witches from wreaking a new kind of havoc on Salem before dawn on All Hallow’s Eve.

Review: For three decades, fans have clamored for a sequel to Hocus Pocus. The Disney film has maintained a cult following thanks to a cheeky blend of humor and scares appropriate for all ages. While a sequel was released in the form of a 2018 novel that directly followed the plot and characters of the original movie, it took until now for Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy to reunite on screen as the Sanderson Sisters. Under the direction of Anne Fletcher (Step Up, The Proposal), Hocus Pocus 2 was guaranteed to be a hit this Halloween season regardless of the quality of the film. Thankfully, Hocus Pocus 2 is a fun follow-up to the original movie that hits many of the same beats as the 1993 movie but with improved special effects and more backstory to the origin of the Sandersons.

Opening with a flashback to Winnifred, Mary, and Sarah’s introduction to the mysterious Witch (Hannah Waddingham) who grants them supernatural powers, Hocus Pocus 2 flashes forward to 2022 and introduces us to Becca (Whitney Peak), an aspiring witch who is celebrating her birthday on Halloween with best friend Izzy (Belissa Escobedo). Becca laments the distance with her friend Cassie Traske (Lilia Buckingham), the daughter of the Mayor of Salem (Tony Hale), a descendant of the clergyman who exiled the Sandersons in 1693. As Becca, Izzy, and Cassie search for a way to get rid of the witches once and for all, the Sandersons explore Salem and all of the 21st-century advancements they were unable to mock in the previous film. From cell phones to Walgreens, flash mobs, and more, Hocus Pocus 2 hits the same style of jokes as the original and they surprisingly still work thanks to the comedic timing of Midler, Parker, and Najimy.

Despite being a sequel, Hocus Pocus 2 only has one direct connection to the original movie. With only Doug Jones reprising his role from Hocus Pocus as Billy Butcherson, it is very noticeable that Thora Birch, Vinessa Shaw, and Omri Katz are absent from this tale. Even Thackery Binx, while referenced, does not factor into the story. Despite everything the Sandersons went through in 1993, it is almost as if those events are completely absent from the minds of the characters as they pursue their single-minded mission to survive past Halloween. This intentional ignorance of the first movie is the biggest missed opportunity with this film and likely what will bother fans the most. Still, in keeping with the Disney+ model of refreshing their aging IP, Hocus Pocus 2 works in every other way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUzv7Tv7usk

The biggest change in this sequel from the original is that the teen characters, led by Becca, possess magical powers which shift this film to be less of a chase and more of a showdown. There are also new conflicts between the Sandersons themselves, but all are cursory to the overall plot which chugs along powered by nostalgia. The biggest benefit of this sequel compared to the original is the increased budget which looks pretty good for a Disney+ offering. Where the story takes a different angle is in the Sandersons themselves. Clearly the antagonists in the original movie, Hocus Pocus 2 paints the trio as loveable anti-heroes which means they cannot be all that bad. This dilutes the confrontation aspect a bit since it is hard to really consider them villains. The ending brings about a much kinder resolution for all with a message of positivity and hope.

Written by Jenn D’Angelo (Solar Opposites, Young Rock) and directed by Anne Fletcher, Hocus Pocus 2 hits the right notes for being fun but not frightening, safe for kids but just edgy enough to appeal to adults. The film also ends the story in a way that guarantees this will be the final entry in the franchise. The score by John Debney and the cinematography by Elliot Davis is good and make the scenes that were clearly filmed on a soundstage feel bigger than they should, but the story doesn’t quite have the edge or originality that I was expecting. Yes, it is fun and yes it is familiar, but at times I hoped it would do a little more with what the first movie set up than just rehash the same plot again.

Hocus Pocus 2 serves as an enjoyable exercise in revisiting a cult classic for a new generation by improving on the special effects and quality of the production design without rocking the boat. Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker clearly had fun reprising their roles as the Sanderson Sisters but everyone else feels like they are just window dressing to allow the trio to chew the scenery. I liked Hocus Pocus 2 for what it is but it is not nearly as good as it could or should have been. Fans will be satisfied and newcomers will be entertained, but in no way does this movie improve upon the original.

Hocus Pocus 3 writer hints that the Sanderson Sisters may still be out for revenge against Salem in the new sequel

Hocus Pocus 2

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Source: JoBlo.com

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.