FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: “Hocus Pocus 2” stars Bette Midler (Beaches, The First Wives Club), Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City [TV series], The Family Stone), Kathy Najimy (Sister Act, Rat Race), Whitney Peak (Molly’s Game, Home Before Dark [TV series]), Belissa Escobedo (Sex Appeal, American Horror Stories [TV series]), Lilia Buckingham (Crown Lake [TV series], Dirt [TV series]), Sam Richardson (Veep [TV series], Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), Froy Gutierrez (Teen Wolf [TV series], Cruel Summer [TV series]), Tony Hale (Toy Story 4, Arrested Development [TV series]), and Doug Jones (The Shape of Water, Pan’s Labyrinth). It is Anne Fletcher (The Proposal, Hot Pursuit), with the screenplay being written by Jen D’Angelo (Workaholics [TV series], Young Rock [TV series]).
On the night of her sixteenth birthday, Becca (Peak) and her friend Izzy (Escobedo) accidentally release the Sanderson Sisters into Salem, after they had been vanquished since 1993.
Halloween is coming early, with Disney+ dropping the latest, never-asked-for sequel, “Hocus Pocus 2.” The Sanderson Sisters are back, ladies and germs, and they’re here to re-hash old jokes and boost those streamer numbers.
I’m sure there are plenty of you who are big fans of the 1993 classic. I had only watched the film a few years ago for the first time (check out my review of it here), and found it to be a fun Halloween flick. Was it the best Halloween feature? No. But it’s decent enough to warrant an annual viewing. The 90’s aesthetic mixed with age gap humor made for an entertaining show, and I found myself having a good time by the end. Fast-forward 29 years later and Disney wants to capitalize on the fandom by making a sequel; one that more so repeats than reinvents.
Call it what you will, but “Hocus Pocus 2” is ultimately what you would expect. It’s both a cash grab and tribute, with not much originality. The Sanderson Sisters are resurrected once more, seeking to do the same thing they did last time through the same means and jokes. The differences this go-around are slight, as the filmmakers surely didn’t want to steer too far from what made the original sell. What we are left with is something… serviceable.
For mega fans of these characters, I am sure that this sequel is a treat. It harnesses the life force of the original, while offering audiences plenty of Sanderson Sister antics. The core three are eclectic, with Midler, Najimy, and Parker slipping into their old witch roles with ease (only this time, the make-up is being used to make them look a bit younger). They are easily the best part of this venture, even though their jokes are retreaded from the first outing. Doug Jones also returns with his role of Billy Butcherson, offering solid humor wherever he can, given how his part isn’t as substantial this go-around. The newbies in this movie who have to stop the witches aren’t too shabby. I thought the performances of Peak, Escobedo, and Buckingham fit the bill of Disney Channel stars, and had enough legs to carry scenes that didn’t involve the Sandersons. Tony Hale is also worth mentioning, as he provided good comedy relief.
At the very least, the nuts and bolts of “Hocus Pocus 2,” while too-familiar, aren’t bad. The look of this flick is fun, and the performances hold up. Really, it just comes down to the storytelling. Jen D’Angelo delivers on some moments, particularly the flashback of the Sandersons and the arc of Winifred (which offered a satisfying conclusion to her role). However, the constant retreading of jokes and reusing of structure made for a journey not all that exhilerating. It seemed like a matter of re-doing all the special moments fans appreciated from the original. The Sisters flying on household items, singing a popular song on a stage in front of costumed adults, and their goal of becoming the most powerful all make up this sequel that worked harder to retain than experiment. Would I have wanted them to do everyting differently? Not necessarily. There are ways to pay homage without carbon copying scenes. But I also never wanted a sequel to begin with, so… maybe I’m not the person to ask this question.
“Hocus Pocus 2” is what you would expect. It’s a sequel of a cult-classic whose ultimate goal is to re-gift the audience with what they love. The result? Fine, but nothing special. The performances and look of this feature are what sells it, and while I did enjoy certain moments (including the arc of Winifred), there isn’t much here to return to. If you’re a fan of the first, I say go ahead and see it. It’s not like it is a slap to the face. Rather, it is a familiar friend with the same parlor tricks that you have rewatched dozens of times every Halloween. FINAL SCORE: 69%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: