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Review: Hocus Pocus 2 (2022)

Hocus Pocus 2 (2022)

Directed by: Anne Fletcher

Premise: A sequel to the 1993 film. Teenage girls accidentally conjure the Sanderson Sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy), seventeenth century witches with a taste for children. The witches must perform a magical spell to make their return permanent.

What Works: 1993’s Hocus Pocus has become a popular Halloween season title and Hocus Pocus 2 recaptures much of what was appealing about its predecessor while doing enough that is new to justify a sequel. The follow up begins with a prologue that reintroduces the Sanderson Sisters as girls and reframes their interest in witchcraft as a resistance to patriarchal Puritan society. The Sanderson’s newly revealed background parallels the contemporary relationship between three teenage girls who practice neopagan rituals. The friendship between the teens comes across genuine and makes these characters and the movie appealing. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy pick up where they left off twenty-nine years ago and they continue chewing the scenery.

What Doesn’t: The original Hocus Pocus was not a great movie. Much like Hook and The Neverending Story, 1993’s Hocus Pocus made an impression on viewers who saw it at a particular age and the film has hung on due to its seasonal and nostalgic appeal. The filmmakers of Hocus Pocus 2 try to appease adult viewers’ affection for the 1993 picture as well as today’s youth audience. That results in some clashes of tone and a few shoehorned callbacks to the first movie; the witches are given two musical numbers. The sequel also changes the witches in ways that don’t make sense. The first movie established these women as villains who ate children. Hocus Pocus 2 does not refute their anthropophagy but it does try to soften the witches in ways that don’t quite work. This is part of a larger trend in recent Disney movies in which villains are no longer allowed to be truly villainous and that undermines the stakes of the story.

Disc extras: Available on Disney+.

Bottom Line: Hocus Pocus 2 is good enough. It’s not a great movie but neither was its predecessor and the sequel makes for acceptable family-friendly Halloween viewing that ought to appeal to fans of the 1993 picture.

Episode: #923 (October 23, 2022)