After 29 years, we finally get a sequel to Hocus Pocus, Disney’s little movie that could. While the original film wasn’t a huge success at the box-office (a major factor being that it was released in the Summer of 1993), it managed to become a staple of Halloween movie nights, thanks to being shown on the Disney Channel and ABC, where it has achieved a cult following, eventually being a juggernaut for the month of October. With all the nostalgia for Hocus Pocus, a sequel was indeed inevitable, with Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy returning to reprise their roles as the devilish Sanderson Sisters, as they wreak havoc in the sleepy town of Salem, Massachusetts, yet again.
Hocus Pocus 2 follows three teenagers, Becca (Whitney Peak), Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), and Cassie (Lillia Buckingham) as they accidentally resurrect the Sanderson Sisters with a black flame candle and a magic chant. How is it possible that the likes of Winifred (Midler), Sarah (Jessica Parker), and Mary have returned after being presumably dead in the first film? The answer is explained in the most ridiculous way, but a sequel’s gotta sequel, and we are here, because the sweet call of 90s nostalgia has beckoned us to break down the doors of Disney+, so it’s best not to think about it too hard.
While Hocus Pocus 2 seems to start off as a lifeless follow-up with jokes and modern day references typical of a Disney Channel original movie, once we see the Sandersons return, the film becomes fun as it mostly focuses on Winifred, Sarah, and Mary trying to make sense of modern senses, such as a trip to Walgreens, a fair with a Sanderson costume contest, and the like. Though the gags become one-note as the Sandersons are reduced to bumbling dunderheads in a fish-out-of-water story instead of the cunning, yet doltish, witches from the original, which added to the neat mix of horror and comedy. There is no denying that Midler, Jessica Parker, and Najimy have fun as these characters and you can tell that they are having a blast, especially when you consider how much they love being them. As noticeably old as they are, their commitment to these characters is what makes Hocus Pocus 2 rise above its lackluster story.
One subplot involves a magic shop owner named Gilbert (Sam Richardson), who has a run-in with Doug Jones’ zombified Billy Butcherson, who has been asleep since the end of the first film. Their scenes are a nice detractor from the main series of gags we have to endure, while Jones brings his A-game as the zombie we know and love, adding a bit of snark to the role.
The third act of Hocus Pocus 2 culminates in a battle that could have been similar to the climax of the first film, yet feels like it has taken inspiration from The Craft with a child-friendly edge. While I did find myself touched by the way things were wrapped up, I could not help but think that something did not feel right when comparing it to the original.
As much as I had fun with Hocus Pocus 2, this sequel does not hold a candle (pun intended or not) to the original. It instead serves as more of a nostalgia-fest for those who grew up and loved Hocus Pocus, like I did. I can see others enjoying it just for that reason, and maybe just like the original, it could be destined as another Halloween classic, or double-feature. As for me, I will just stick with the first film.