Hocus Pocus was one of the best Halloween movies to come out of the nineties and stands the test of time with an interesting mix of characters, plot and iconic moments that had people begging to see the Sanderson sisters once more. Disney answered that wish, but with a new creative team to bring the Sanderson sisters back to our screens.
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. Instead of following a family like the previous movie, Hocus Pocus 2 is led by Becca (Whitney Peak), Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham). Becca is a jaded and cynical newly turned 16-year-old who ices out her childhood friend, Cassie, because she became popular. Becca and Izzy seem to focus on punishing Cassie for getting a boyfriend and becoming popular despite Cassie trying to connect.
It is hard not to compare to the iconic setting and feel of the original movie, which had a distinctive Autumn feel from the aesthetic that added to the longevity of the original. The sequel lacks this. There are plenty of Halloween decorations and it constantly says how it is Halloween in a way that feels a bit too explained, breaking the simplest of filmmaking rules: show don’t tell. There is a Halloween fair, but the entire movie does not give that distinctive Halloween feel that the original was famous for. Normally, characters would make up for that but with the main character having a petty hatred for a former friend and a performance of no depth or entertainment, it is hard to root for the new main characters when they lack likability and depth. There is an array of new characters to spearhead the latest movie and too many side characters that take away from the plot even when something seemingly interesting is about to happen. Gilbert (Sam Richardson) is the owner of a magic shop and museum of the Sanderson sisters that had an intriguing plot that could have been fun had it not been for the stifled writing and plot that gets in its own way. Another is The Witch Mother (Hannah Waddingham) whose role was so brief it may have been a cameo but one of the better parts of the movie, with Waddingham being a brief but great addition to the movie, that left a desire to see her character more and less of the main character, Becca. It is less about Halloween and more so about high school dramas from a very bitter protagonist with no real goal or drive to support her or the plot.
Returning favorites, Winnie (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimy) no doubt save the movie with moments that make it impossible to hold back a smile. The years may have passed, but the chemistry between the sisters remains the same as they are, again, resurrected out of their time. The best moments belong to the Sanderson sisters and will make every generation feel as if they are the best part of the film. The film opens with a younger version of the Sanderson sisters, excellently cast and performed by young Winnie (Taylor Henderson). The entire movie would have been better had it been spent with the younger Sandersons and how they become the feared child eating infamous witches. William Butcherson (Doug Jones) returns but is lost in the plot, and forgettable, a shame compared to how iconic he was in the first movie.
The original movie can be enjoyed at any decade, but Hocus Pocus 2 feels as if it belongs to teenagers of this year and nothing past that. Hocus Pocus 2 lacks the autumnal feel, a likable protagonist to root for, but the Sanderson sisters make up for it and keep you interested enough until the credits roll.
The MVC has to be Winifred aka Winnie. Winnie brings the same fun as the original movie and is the best part of the entire movie, lifts it up and keeps you interested with a spellbinding performance from Bette Midler and helps the lacklustre plot.
Disney+ Original movie, “Hocus Pocus 2” will premiere September 30, 2022, exclusively on Disney+.
Hocus Pocus 2 was screened for review.