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Does ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ Live Up To The Magic Of The Original? Here’s What The Reviews Say
By Molly Bradley
Sept. 29, 2022
“Hocus Pocus 2” may not become the cultural touchstone that the original was, but it still captures some of the old beloved magic.
The original “Hocus Pocus,” released in the summer (for some reason) of 1993, didn’t receive instant raves but has since become a mainstream classic. Hocus Pocus 2 Reviews: The First Round Are From Some Of The Major Outlets
Now, the Sanderson Sisters are back in a sequel directed by Anne Fletcher, with Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker returning to the screen and actors Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, and Lilia Buckingham as young characters meeting the witches for the first time when they accidentally cast a spell to summon them.
It’s always tough for a sequel to live up to a smash hit, especially when the sequel comes almost 30 years later. But it seems like “Hocus Pocus 2,” while not a groundbreaking film captures the beloved magic of the original. Here’s what the critics say.
Hocus Pocus 2 Reviews: The First Round Are From Some Of The Major Outlets
In a slight retread of the first film’s plot, “Hocus Pocus 2” follows two present-day Salem teenagers, Becca and Izzy (Whitney Peak and Belissa Escobedo), who accidentally bring the witchy Sanderson sisters back to life while performing their yearly Halloween night ritual.
This time, director Anne Fletcher (“The Proposal,” “The Guilt Trip”) and screenwriter Jen D’Angelo have concocted a girl-power take on the franchise, beginning with the origin tale of how the Sanderson sisters became witches.
The Humor Is Familiar But Satisfying
[The sequel] follows the same goofy comedic approach of the Kenny Ortega-directed first film — namely, how the sisters react to modern inventions like robot vacuums, Amazon’s Alexa and Walgreens. Even a few meta-jokes nod to the Sanderson sisters’ popularity in the world of drag.
”Hocus Pocus 2” indulges in a delightful “women out of time” detour as the sisters—in the movie’s best and funniest scenes—confront the 21st century by way of a trip to a Walgreens.
The Overall Vibes Are Good
It was a pleasant surprise to find that “Hocus Pocus 2” is actually pretty fun. Set in a Stars Hollow-like Salem, it’s the perfect Disney+ movie — seasonally appropriate entertainment that, for at least one night, may save a family from the doom of endless scrolling and indecision.
Ultimately, “Hocus Pocus 2” operates as a cheerful throwback to the 1980s/early ’90s genre of plucky kids saving small-town America from existential danger, a vibe tapped into by not just the original “Hocus Pocus” but such classics as “Gremlins,” “Back to the Future” and “The Goonies.”
The Sanderson Sisters Are Just As Delightful This Time Around
Midler, Parker and Najimy are clearly having so much fun it’s hard to not go along with their hijinks a little bit. All the beats of the first movie are there, including a big Halloween party where the sisters perform.
Midler, Parker and Najimy don’t treat this like an easy payday. They came ready to play, whether that means singing and dancing, riding on a Swiffer (they couldn’t find a broom, you see), or eating face cream at Walgreens.
Midler, Parker and Najimy effortlessly slip back into their roles, with Midler getting the most screen time and the funniest one-liners. Her performance hovers just below “over the top” for most of the run time, however, but Midler and Fletcher seem to wisely reground it just in time for adult Winifred to deliver the movie’s climactic monologue.
Admittedly, The Movie Raison D’Être Is A Little Thin
The good news is if you liked Hocus Pocus, you will definitely like Hocus Pocus 2…because it’s basically the exact same movie except with cell phones, better special effects and a cameo from Hannah Waddingham. Imitation remains the sincerest form of flattery. The bad news is…it’s the exact same movie.
This movie seems to have put more thought into the pharmacy product placement than coming up with a reason the wicked Sanderson sisters would return to Salem — or why it took them 29 years (since the events of the first movie) to do it.
There Are Some Things That Even Work Better In The Sequel
Whereas the first “Hocus Pocus” struggled to maintain narrative momentum thanks to its clunky structure and slightly above Dad Joke-level sense of humor, “Hocus Pocus 2” (minus one shoulder shrug of a musical number) uses the franchise’s witchcraft and world-building to earnestly explore timely themes of identity and inclusivity, for a follow-up that fans may begrudgingly concede is better than the original.
Director Anne Fletcher (“The Proposal”) takes us back to early Salem to offer an origin story for the sisters (playing teenage Winifred in the prologue, Taylor Henderson has fun channeling the Divine Miss M’s more flamboyant mannerisms). The Sandersons were “misunderstood” and “ahead of their time,” the movie explains, demonstrating a kind of have-it-both-ways thinking that’s perfectly consistent with the politics of the moment.
[While] “Hocus Pocus 2” may be a blatant attempt by Disney to continue propping up its streaming platform Disney+ (where the movie has its debut), it manages to capture the same hokey magic of the original while creatively updating its humor.