Hocus Pocus 2 swoops onto Disney Plus in time for Halloween with a fun opening sequence. Directed by Anne Fletcher (The Proposal), it brings back Midler, Najimy and Parker with the same verve they displayed in the original. But the sequel struggles to find its footing. Recycled plot points and knowing winks at the cult film crowd feel flat without the original’s spark.
It’s been 29 years since a young witch accidentally beckoned the Sanderson sisters back from their slumber and wreaked havoc on Salem. Now, a trio of teenagers must stop them from casting an immortality spell and wreaking further havoc before dawn on All Hallow’s Eve.
Thankfully, the original cast is here to save the day: Bette Midler as Winifred, Sarah Jessica Parker as the ditzy Sarah and Kathy Najimy as Mary reclaim their roles with their characteristic energy and kookiness. Even a younger Taylor Henderson (complete with her trademark wonky teeth) steals a few scenes.
Director Anne Fletcher knows how to balance the old and new to appease fans of the original film without boring repeat viewers or confusing newcomers. The opening sequence — which features an Earth splitting, a moon dimming and lightning crackling — sets a promising tone. And once the Sanderson Sisters are unleashed, their bumbling hijinks around Salem make it clear that they relish their chance for vindication.
The three original stars return to their roles with a sense of gleeful kookiness that helps Hocus Pocus 2 overcome its many cliches. But without a real conflict, the film’s low stakes start to wane and the characters’ bumbling hijinks become monotonous. Screenwriter Jen D’Angelo also doesn’t have the same sharp tongue that made her first movie such a gleeful romp, and the culture clash comedy loses its fizz.
But the film is still fun and funny enough to keep kids (and adults) entertained for its 92-minute run time. And the young actors who fill out the rest of the cast – Whitney Peak as Becca, Belissa Escobedo as Izzy and Liilia Buckingham as Cassie – are all solid. Hocus Pocus 2 may be geared towards the tween-age crowd, but it doesn’t include any sexual content or explicit language. There are a few scary images and some talk about magic, but parents should be fine with the movie.
The primewire movies film is a blast of colorfully witty entertainment. The witchy sisters fling themselves around on broomsticks and robot vacuum cleaners, break into song and dance and speak in mock-Victorian. The original cast is all here: Bette Midler as Winifred, the imperious sister with a wonky overbite; Sarah Jessica Parker as the ditzy flirt; and Kathy Najimy as Mary, the daffy third sister.
Despite the fact that the Sanderson Sisters were permanently poofed into colored dust at the end of the 1993 film, they resurface in Hocus Pocus 2. Young wannabe spellcasters Becca (Whitney Peak), Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham) accidentally summon them by lighting their famous black-flame candle on Halloween.
A sequel to a 30-year-old movie that was deemed an unholy mess by The New York Times and breathlessly disdained by the revered Roger Ebert may have seemed like a bad idea at best, but this Disney+ release delivers. It is the perfect Halloween movie, even though it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the original.
The special effects
While the special effects aren’t as good as they could be, they work well enough and are more than adequate for a featherlight family film. Plus, it’s great to see that this sequel is more diverse than the original. That’s something I rarely see in films from the 90s.
Hocus Pocus 2 follows Winifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson as they wreak havoc on present-day Salem, with the help of coven-curious teens Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo). Jen D’Angelo’s clever script provides plenty of fish out of water humor and some of the movie’s funniest scenes.
The film also avoids the common pitfalls of modern reboots by refusing to shoehorn in too many wink-wink references to the original. This helps to make Hocus Pocus 2 feel fresh and new, even though it’s basically the same story as its predecessor. This is an enjoyable featherlight comedy that will entertain fans of the original and introduce a younger generation to this cult classic.
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