Hocus Pocus 2
WHERE TO WATCH:
WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Three young women accidentally bring back the Sanderson Sisters to modern-day Salem and must figure out how to stop the child-hungry witches from wreaking havoc on the world.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
As a millennial interested in the spookier side of life, Hocus Pocus formed a pivotal part of my childhood. At the age of six or seven, it was my first introduction to the American version of Halloween in an Afrikaans household, sparking a lifelong obsession with the glamorised holiday. When they announced Hocus Pocus 2 was finally officially happening, with the original Sanderson Sisters cast, I was ecstatic for a new generation to fall in love with its child-friendly macabre and physical comedy gold.
Twenty-nine years later, Hocus Pocus 2 kicks off another Halloween season with a burst of nostalgia and campy cringe, recapturing the soul of the original with Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy. Its attempts to situate the witches within a progressive modern society fall somewhat flat, blunting their saucy evil with a sympathetic backstory and uncharacteristic curtain call. Luckily, there's enough sentimental magic to smooth over the rough narrative patches.
A direct sequel to the original, Salem in 2022, has become a popular Halloween destination. Among its residents, three friends struggle with a rift between them as they prepare for an annual birthday ritual in the woods. Dark forces, unfortunately, trick them into summoning the Sanderson Sisters once more, and they have to use the power of friendship to fight them off (no jokes, this is the actual plot line).
While the original cast did not have the ability to suck the youth from children in real life, the power of movie magic has rendered them almost timeless, looking pretty much as they did when they were first defeated in 1993. I was actually expecting the filmmakers to play on their actual age much more cleverly and incorporate it into the story, but instead, a new all-powerful spell becomes the main focus of this sequel. Despite the new story and gimmicks, many of the original jokes ended up being repackaged and repeated, like swopping out a flying vacuum with flying Roombas and putting the sisters on a stage again for their compulsory spellcasting song, though this time it's a fan-service costume contest. Like their looks, Hocus Pocus 2 is as ageless and kind of repetitive, but I'm not exactly mad at it. Honestly, fans just wanted more of the witches' wit and camp, and that's exactly what Disney delivered.
As for our beloved cast, the passionate reverence Midler, Parker and Najimy have for their renowned characters is palpable - most of all for Winifred. It never feels like just a paycheck for them, and whatever problems fans will have with the placid narrative, they can't deny that everyone involved with the making of the sequel has a deep love for the original. The sisters still got the best one-liner jokes; their physical comedy remains the gold standard, and Sarah's random shenanigans are still foolishly wonderful in the background. They are not quite as synchronous as in the original, but they still deliver as the Sanderson Sisters.
Another great return is the insanely talented Doug Jones as the zombified Billy Butcherson, reprising his breakout role that sparked an amazing career. He also falls into the Andy Serkis category of Oscar-worthy physical performances, minus the CGI, and stole the show every time, even when he's just a head. The rest of the original cast didn't come back for a second time, but to be honest, they're not particularly missed except from the narrative's perspective. Our new cast had a difficult legacy to live up to and could have done it given the chance, but they were mostly dwarfed by the big personalities of Midler, Parker, Najimy and Jones, losing the limelight and lacking in character depth. As the next generation, the audience needed a little more time with them before the Sandersons' return to create a lasting bond, especially with the young ones being introduced to the Hocus Pocus fandom for the first time.
As a straight-to-streaming release, Hocus Pocus 2 is not as cash grabby as some of Disney's other nostalgic releases. The love and attention for the story were there from the filmmakers, but the same emotional investment was lacking from the studio. Given more budget and time, everyone involved could have created something truly spectacular that could have held a bright (black flame) candle to the original, but they did the best with what they had. Rushed CGI effects, lacklustre narrative and a dimmed spotlight for the new cast did not dampen the magical experience overall, and you'll still get chills with Winifred's first "Booooooook!"
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:
Hocus Pocus 2 is currently streaming on Disney+.