Hocus Pocus 2 Review: Sanderson Sisters Shine in OK Sequel

After 29 years, the Sanderson Sisters are back. Hocus Pocus 2due out on Disney+ on September 30th, sees Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy and Doug Jones return to the franchise alongside some new faces including Whitney Peak and Tony Hale, as well as Anne Fletcher taking on directing duties.

I have to preface this review because it looks like Hocus Pocus is universally accepted as a beloved classic everyone under 30 grew up watching and loving, but that’s not the case for me. I saw it for the first time last year and – for the most part – could take it or leave it. So while it’s hard for me to make bold claims about whether or not this movie will please fans of the original, I’m going to guess that it probably will because it’s basically more of the same.

Much like the first film, a teenage virgin (thankfully the sequel doesn’t have an awkward fixation on the second characterization that felt uncomfortably out of place for a children’s film in the 1993 film) lights a special candle which brings the return of the Sanderson Sisters, three witches set to take revenge on the town of Salem after being banished from society a few centuries earlier. Once again, the kids must save the day and their town from the wrath of the infamous trio, just as bombastic as they were 29 years ago.

The highlight is of course seeing Midler, Parker and Najimy together again. While the main focus, including in a flashback to the witch’s youth at the beginning of the film, is on Midler’s Winifred, Nijimy’s Mary has many of the best moments and gets more chances to shine than she did in the first. Unfortunately, Parker’s Sarah, who was arguably the original, doesn’t get much to do in this one. Snippets of her famous song, “Come Little Children,” can be heard in the background occasionally, but she doesn’t get a real “moment” this time.

Speaking of which, an element of Hocus Pocus 2 that definitely pales in comparison to its predecessor is the music. There are two songs, an original and a cover of a classic rock number from the late 70s. Both are sung by the witches, but don’t capture the magic that “I Put a Spell on You” and the aforementioned “Come Little Children” did back in 1993 (though one is clearly meant to be the modern equivalent of the former). As those two songs were the best moments Hocus Pocusthe void is definitely felt here.

As for the newcomers, they are all serviceable in their roles. The strongest of the lot are Sam Richardson as store owner Gilbert and Tony Hale as Salem’s mayor and father of one of the three teenage girls working to take down the Sandersons. Both characters bring a freshness to the franchise; since adults other than the Sandersons themselves weren’t much of a presence in the original, it’s nice to see how they react to the stories of magic happening in town and later interact with the witches themselves. The story takes place 29 years after the first one, so it’s fun to see how Salem has changed over time and how the kids from 1993 have now grown up.

Having three teenage girls fighting against the magical trio creates a nice parallel between good and evil in this film and creates a different dynamic on the hero side than the original band of a teenage boy working with his younger sister and love interest. Maybe Disney is trying to create a spin-off or legacy sequel with these three heroines as the focal point, although they are totally overshadowed by the Midler/Parker/Najimy trio here, so it might not be worth pursuing further.

This movie is sure to be a hit on Disney+, but it’s somewhat confusing why Disney didn’t choose a theatrical release Hocus Pocus 2. While it is true that the first Hocus Pocus didn’t do well theatrically back in 1993, it has since grown in popularity and is now considered a Halloween classic. (There’s also the fact that it debuted in July instead of the fall to keep in mind.) While I don’t personally have a lot of nostalgia attached to the original, reactions from a lot of people who do indicate that this sequel does a much better job to scratch that itch than, say, most of Disney’s recent live-action remakes, many of which have seen success on the big screen.

If you like the original, you’ll like this one Hocus Pocus 2. As someone who had a solid experience with the first (except for the two musical sequences), I wasn’t overly excited or disappointed with this one. The Sanderson Sisters are once again great, but the film around them is nothing special. It will most likely please kids looking for some spooky vibes when Halloween season arrives (and I’d say this one is a bit less scary for the youngsters than the first one might have been), which is probably what Disney hoped for.

SCORE: 6/10

Like ComingSoon’s audit policy explains, a score of 6 corresponds to “Decent”. It fails to reach its full potential and is a thorough experience.

Disclosure: The publisher provided us with a screener link Hocus Pocus 2 review.

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