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Hocus Pocus 2 Review – Casting a Spell on You

Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson, Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson, and Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson in HOCUS POCUS 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Matt Kennedy. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo Courtesy of Matt Kennedy and Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Entertainment

Hocus Pocus 2 Review – Casting a Spell on You

A Disney cult classic returns.

The Sanderson Sisters return with Hocus Pocus 2, but is this a sequel worthy of the Hocus Pocus brand? I mean it’s no secret that the first Hocus Pocus is a cult classic movie, bringing in fans new and old every year. However, it has been nearly 30 years since the original, so there’s always a chance that the movie’s story would be lost in translation for a modern-day sequel. Well, I’m happy to report that the sequel is incredibly deserving of having the name Hocus Pocus and captures almost every bit of magic the original had.

Hocus Pocus 2 takes place 29 years after the original and sees two young girls unwillingly awaken the Sanderson Sisters on Halloween night by using the black flame once again. This, of course, results in the return of the witch sisters, who once again wreak havoc upon Salem in an effort to stay young forever.

Sound similar to the original? Of course it does, and you know what? That’s okay. Hocus Pocus 2 is not meant to be a movie that breaks tons of new ground; it’s meant to be a fun romp back through Salem with the classic trio. This sequel knows what its purpose is and doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not, something that allows this movie to have room to breathe and be the movie it needs to be. So let’s get into what exactly makes this movie as fun and magical as it is.

Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson, Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson, and Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson in Disney's live-action HOCUS POCUS 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Matt Kennedy. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo Courtesy of Matt Kennedy and Disney Enterprises, Inc.

First of all, the Sanderson Sisters are expertly brought back with this Disney+ movie. Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker all seamlessly fit back into their roles as the Sanderson Sisters. It’s incredible how much they still feel like their original characters three decades later. From looks to performance, the trio feels just as charming as they did all the way back in 1993. Thanks to a more modern script though, the sisters feel far more developed and not as much like the caricatures they once were. Don’t get me wrong, the silly and goofy elements are still there, but the characters are definitely much more fleshed out overall.

The other returning character is Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson, and thankfully the story of Hocus Pocus 2 expands upon Billy’s story as well. The good zombie is given more to do here and feels much more critical to the plot.

(L-R): Belissa Escobedo as Izzy and Whitney Peak as Becca in Disney's live-action HOCUS POCUS 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Matt Kennedy. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo Courtesy of Matt Kennedy and Disney Enterprises, Inc.

What about when it comes to the new cast though? Well, thankfully the new cast here is also great, with the immediate standouts being Whitney Peak and Belissa Escobedo as Becca and Izzy, along with Sam Richardson as Gilbert. Story-wise, these new characters all feel as though they have a greater purpose when it comes to the movie’s story and themes, something that the original was a bit lacking in when it came to their non-witch characters. Given that the stars of the film are the antagonists, the writers need to give you characters who are rootable enough to go up against the main characters, which these actresses and actors excellently provide.

Tony Hale is also great as the current Mayor of Salem, but he isn’t asked to do anything groundbreaking. Tony Hale does what Tony Hale usually does and isn’t asked to do anything unusual for him as an actor, but he’s well cast, so he’s still a delight to have around. Also, while Hannah Waddingham is barely in Hocus Pocus 2, she makes an immediate impression as the enigmatic mother witch. Despite hardly being in the movie, Waddingham’s mystifying portrayal immediately makes her a character you want to see more of.

(L-R): Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson, Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson, and Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson in Disney's live-action HOCUS POCUS 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo Courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Other than the cast, there are plenty of other things for fans of the original to get out of the sequel, including excellent callbacks. I found myself yelling at the screen multiple times in excitement over seeing a reference to the original. Thankfully though, the callbacks don’t all immediately hit you, but they’re almost always there if you look for them. I don’t want to spoil any of the exact callbacks here, but keep an eye on Twinfinite for spoiler coverage when Hocus Pocus 2 releases on Friday.

One element that I was genuinely surprised by with the Hocus Pocus sequel was that there was some genuine emotional weight and themes. I didn’t expect to feel any emotion while watching the movie other than joy and laughter, so I was shocked to find myself actually getting a bit emotional. Hocus Pocus 2 knew the exact heartstrings to pull at, but in a way that didn’t feel manipulative, instead feeling like it genuinely deserved it through the story the movie was telling.

Photo Courtesy of Matt Kennedy and Disney Enterprises, Inc.

While the original Hocus Pocus is an incredibly fun movie and one that is a Halloween staple for a reason, there are some elements that likely wouldn’t be in it if it was made today. Hocus Pocus 2 pokes fun at this with some of its jokes while acknowledging some problematic aspects by having this movie’s central theme be sisterhood. It is a fantastic choice to hone in on the sisterhood aspect of the original, as it not only modernizes the sequel but also makes the problems that some may have had with Hocus Pocus go down easier. Simply put, it gives the characters, both new and old, more depth.

Something important to note is that it will be worth your time to watch the credits, as there are two scenes that Hocus Pocus fans are sure to want to see. One scene is more just the movie having fun during the credits, while the other is a genuine story note.

When all is said and done, Hocus Pocus 2 is a worthy sequel to a classic Halloween film and one that is sure to make for an excellent double feature. Now, instead of just watching the first Hocus Pocus every Halloween, I’m going to be sure to watch both every year going forward. Hocus Pocus 2 releases exclusively on Disney+ this Friday, Sep. 30, giving you the whole month of October to watch it for this Halloween season.

Our Verdict: Must Watch

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