Seasonal films have a helping hand when it comes to lasting legacy. Every Halloween (or ‘October’ as it is known these days), the TV listings and streaming services are filled with a dearth of spooky and boo-niverse movies, new and old.
Few have gained in popularity more year on year than the classic 1993 hit movie Hocus Pocus, starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy (Dumplin') as the soul sucking Sanderson sisters.
In the long-awaited Hocus Pocus 2, our youth chasing creatures of the night return thanks to a black candle, some chanting in the woods, and the financial bottom line of Disney.
The accidental high school summoners of Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) must team up with estranged friend Cassie (Lilia Buckingham) to stop the Sanderson’s invoking a spell to make them all powerful before the sun rises.
The plot beats are more or less the same as the original as our legacy cast re-tread the same boards for the same affections.
Midler has long cited Winnie Sanderson as her favourite character she ever played and the love is there on the screen. Midler, Parker, and Najimy relive their classic characters in much smile-inducing familiarity.
Is Hocus Pocus 2 Worth Watching?
Sadly there is little else going on here. The original Hocus Pocus was campy fun but did carry some element of threat; the Sandersons strive to stay young by draining the souls of children.
Hocus Pocus 2 has a plot unwilling to conjure up even that amount of low level witchy stakes with the quest for power never resulting in any tangible danger to anybody.
Our new young cast also struggle to make much impact. Despite a strong effort from Peak, the script sees the classic balancing of a ‘trio’ of characters reduced to a duo for much of the run time.
Becca and best friend Izzy are always on the same page merely moving the plot along. Cassie, and therefore their strained friendship with her, is barely in the movie until the end rendering their character arcs as totally moot.
It really is quite strange the amount of effort that has gone into stripping Hocus Pocus 2 from any of the darker flourishes that elevated the original.
A clunky opening section set when the Sandersons were children portrays them in an almost tragic light despite (it must be said) the outstanding impressions from their younger proxies who delight in mimicking the older actors’ mannerisms beautifully.
The attempt to warm up the iconic antagonists is limited to the start and end of the movie as if emotional bookends were needed to supplement the lack of emotional investment in our protagonists. This saccharine drain also saps the ending of any impact as the tone is less ‘evil defeated’ more a hazy ‘the strength of sisterhood’.
Midler holds her moment with masterful skill, but the emotional investment simply isn’t earned.
Hocus Pocus 2 Official Trailer
On the plus side Tony Hale’s comic turn as a mayor constantly seeking a candy apple carries more enjoyable stakes than the main plot.
There is still fun to be had in baffling the out of time Sandersons with modern technology (Instagram filters gets a good gag), and even the ‘jock’ type character’s moment of dawning realisation is genuinely sweet.
That said, it’s best not to dwell on confusing additions to cannon; a plot thread that shows “B-oooooo-k!!” has free will implies it was fine with the child murder in the original – shh!
Without even a hint of black magic to wind around itself, Hocus Pocus 2 is the kid who turns up in a sheet with eye holes cut out and mumbles ‘boo,’ but is having a nice time regardless.
It strives to put a memory warming spell on you, but the spell is miscast due to less interesting songs, less interesting characters, and a no-stakes plot. All the more reason, therefore, to enjoy the original Hocus Pocus for the work of irreplicable magic that it was.
Words by Mike Record
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