“Hocus Pocus 2” – A Soulless Sequel That Lacks the Charm of the Original (Review)

There are few family friendly Halloween films that have had the lasting power of 1993’s Hocus Pocus.  For those who primarily grew up in the 90s (like myself), it holds a special nostalgic place in our collective childhoods.  And even now as adults, it makes for a fun watch every Halloween season.

So it was absolutely no surprise that in the age of sequels/requels/reboots, Disney went back to this well in order to create more content for their streaming platform.  Released a whopping 29 years after the original, Hocus Pocus 2 attempts to recapture the magic (pun very intended), but unfortunately fails to do so on many levels…

When will they learn to stop lighting the candle?

Summoning the Coven…Again
Opening in Salem in the 17th Century, we begin with the trio of Sanderson sisters as preteen children.  Winifred draws fury from the village for her refusal to get married at her young age and her overall behavior which they deem blasphemous.  In an attempt to avoid persecution, she, Mary, and Sarah run into the Forbidden Woods and begin their life of witchcraft we’re all very familiar with.

Now in the present, they’re summoned once again by two teenagers, Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) when they don’t realize the candle they’re lighting is in fact the infamous black candle.  The Sanderson trio returns, and very much to their credit Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker very easily step back into these roles and make it feel like no time has passed at all since their demise 29 years ago.

These three always seem like they’re having a ball playing these characters, and it works because they commit 100% to the cheesiness of the roles.

Hijinks ensue as the Sandersons adjust to the modern world, which is even different now than it was in 1993.  All while Becca and Izzy try to figure out how to prevent them from completing the spell before sunrise.  The Sandersons set their sights on going after the mayor of Salem, whom they believe is a direct descendant of the 17th Century reverend that had it out for them.

Returning Characters/Ideas
There are certain criteria all legacy sequels apparently must abide by and Hocus Pocus 2 checks them all off.  Billy Butcherson returns, even though he doesn’t have very much to do (other than clear up the nature of his “relationship” with Winifred).  And even though we saw Thackery Binks reunited with his sister in the afterlife, we get another black cat that for the longest time you expect to talk, but just doesn’t because it’s an ordinary cat just meant to remind you of Binks.

Billy almost has too much dialogue here. He was creepy and mysterious in the original, but here has full conversations and it just seems…odd.

There are a couple more musical numbers that feel a bit unnatural.  In the original, “I Put a Spell on You” was performed at a Halloween party, but here there are scenes where the movie almost becomes a musical.  Even the end credits play over the Sandersons doing a random music video, because you have to cross promote these days.

It hits all the marks it’s supposed to, but there’s far less attention placed on new ideas.  To be fair, we do get a subplot about the teenage girls discovering their own abilities with magic and witchcraft.  But it culminates in a third act that tries very hard to make you feel sympathy for the Sandersons, particularly Winifred.  But they were never complex villains that needed justification to begin with.  They were always evil, but in a fun and entertaining way, and this sequel sort of missed that point.

The younger actors do the best they can with what they have. But honestly, they’re not given much to work with.

Losing the Charm
Let’s be honest, the original Hocus Pocus is by no means a masterpiece.  In fact, even those who enjoy it probably wouldn’t describe is a great movie, but its campy nature creates a sort of charm that’s just absent in this sequel.  It has its funny moments (like when Mary Sanderson upgrades from flying on a vacuum cleaner to a roomba), but it just feels like the Sandersons are just here to be here.

Sam Richardson’s character Gilbert also feels like a missed opportunity. He’s obsessed with the Sandersons, and could have been a great surrogate for adult audience members who grew up on the original.

There’s one moment early on where the girls tell the witches that people worship them now, but this genuinely interesting idea is pretty much forgotten about.  The original was cheesy as hell, but it kind of knew what it was and just had fun with it.  Hocus Pocus 2 almost takes itself too seriously, and the result is that lack of charm.

Hocus Pocus 2 feels less like an actual movie sequel, and more like a 90 minute Superbowl commercial where they bring back a classic character just for a quick gimmick.  From a purely cinematic standpoint, the original isn’t that much better of a movie, but it’s incredibly more fun and entertaining!

What did you think of Hocus Pocus 2?  How did it compare to the original for you?  Let us know in the comments!

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