1993’s Hocus Pocus is a must-watch for a lot of people each Halloween season, especially for those who grew up in the 90s. It’s a family Disney flick about witches being resurrected and wreaking havoc on the town of Salem, Massachusetts, and a few kids spend their Halloween night trying to defeat them. It’s a perfect representation of the spookiest time of year that’s entertaining for people of all ages. Twenty Nine years later, a follow-up film was finally released after almost three decades of fans begging for more. Does Hocus Pocus 2 satisfy the cravings that audiences have after their annual viewing of the original, or were we better off with just the one standalone film?
The humor used throughout Hocus Pocus 2 is genuinely hilarious. The film is filled with clever meta humor with a tongue-in-cheek tone, as if the movie itself knows it’s a silly family flick that went straight to streaming. The other forms of humor, including sarcasm and slapstick, are just as entertaining. There’s something about centuries-old witches believing that moisturizer is made of children’s souls because it’s labeled “Youth,” that is hard not to laugh at. This is a truly funny movie throughout, and there’s plenty to laugh at in every scene.The humor alone makes it an entertaining-enough watch.
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy absolutely bring it as the Sanderson Sisters once again. Their chemistry is palpable, as if they’ve remained friends this whole time. They clearly had a blast returning to these roles, and it’s noticeable each time they’re on screen. They have so much fun together that it makes them that much more fun to watch.
A welcome addition that was missing from the first movie is the large level of emotion for the Sanderson Sisters. Not only do we see how much they truly care for each other, but the audience is given reasons to care about what happens to them. In the original Hocus Pocus, we enjoy them as characters because they’re funny, charismatic, and entertaining villains, but we were never given much of a reason to feel for them as characters. The sequel does that quite nicely without ever losing what we liked about the witches previously. There’s even a moment or two with them that are worth tearing up over.
Hocus Pocus 2 is also a sequel that builds off of its predecessor quite well. We learn more about the Sandersons’ past, the (fictional) history of Salem, and how witches and magic work in general. While the original didn’t necessarily need some of these explored or answered, it’s still pretty cool to see. For major fans of the original, learning more about the movie world they love is quite interesting.
One of the most fun elements of Hocus Pocus is seeing the witches from the 1600s interacting with and reacting to the modern world. Being scared of trick-or-treaters and being baffled by a bus provided a lot of humor. That was back in the 90s. Now, in the 2020s, there’s a whole new modern world for them to experience and it provides just as much entertainment. There are gags involving smartphones and the like, but it never feels eye roll-worthy like in other modern family or children’s films. There’s never a cringeworthy moment of the Sandersons flossing (the dance, not the dental hygiene product) or making a TikTok to a hiphop song. It all feels organic. Speaking of the witches being in present day 2022, modern Salem is presented perfectly. It’s crowded with tourists partying it up on Halloween, exploring witch museums, and taking ghost tours. It’s impressive to see something so realistically and accurately portrayed in a fantastical film.
There are a lot of callbacks to the original movie throughout this sequel. In fact, there are way too many of them. Plenty of them feel inorganic. For quite a few of them, tough, they begin as eye roll-worthy but manage to win me over. For instance, there’s a scene in which Winifred and her sisters sing on stage in order to hypnotize a crowd (exactly as they did in the previous film). I winced when I realized they were copying the first installment so much, especially with the song choice being Blondie’s “One Way or Another.” The song is an absolute classic, but it’s been completely overused by other family and children’s movies. From The Rugrats Movie, to Pink Panther, and even Sabrina: the Teenage Witch, this song has been used in similar fashions and it’s become a cliche. However, about halfway through the song, the scene transforms into a surprisingly entertaining and creative dance sequence. Plus, instead of hypnotizing the crowd and moving on like the witches did in the first film, they actually use these hypnotized dancers to help them achieve their goal. There are a few other similar scenes where they take an unnecessary callback and put a surprisingly fun twist on it, like Mary using Roombas instead of a broom to fly just because she previously used a vacuum, but they later become more like hilariously adorable pets.
Where there are a few callbacks that are made surprisingly fun or humorous, there are many more that aren’t. They just feel pointless and lazily written. The only reason why Gilbert keeps a black cat at what used to be the Sanderson’s house is to reference Binx. Sarah shout’s “amok, amok, amok,” yet again. Marie gives Becca the same “Shishka-baby” nickname she gave Dani in the original. It’s just a lot of “hey, remember this!” moments strung together at times that just feel cringey. On top of that, there’s also a couple of moments throughout where they just reuse footage from the first one. There’s even a scene where characters are watching the original movie. None of this enhances the plot of the current movie in any way.
This could be because the Sandersons are given a lot of screen time and are focused on much more, but the new young protagonists feel rather bland. The two main girls, Becca and Izzy, feel like they essentially have the same personality. We know very little about them outside the fact that they’re generic teenagers and that they have drama with their former friend, Cassie. In the original, the protagonist, Max, can be an annoying jerk a lot of the time, but at least he has a personality. It’s also worth noting that their drama with Cassie is pretty dumb. She stopped hanging out with them so she can date a bully. Ladies, it’s time to ditch the toxic friend if she’s mistreating you and making you feel bad.
During the film, it’s revealed that Becca is actually a young witch developing her magic powers for the first time. We never find out if her parents or someone else in her family has magic, so there’s definitely some questions worth asking. The main problem with it, though, is that her being a witch opens up a plot hole. It’s originally thought that the Sandersons were the only witches alive in modern Salem, but if Becca’s a witch, there must be others as well. Where and who are they? There could have been a quick throwaway line about all the other modern witches using their abilities to make a living as those supposedly-phony fortune tellers in Salem, or something along those lines. Where there isn’t, we’re left hanging wondering how there’s another witch in Salem.
The third act of the movie may be extremely emotional, but it lacks the suspense or excitement that most third acts, especially that of most other fantasy or family films. The original movie had an action-packed chase sequence that led to a graveyard where the witches swooped down from the sky to snatch up the children. In this sequel, though, there’s a hint of that excitement, but it’s quickly skipped over to get to the emotional dialogue. It makes the stakes feel low and the end feel somewhat anticlimactic.
Hocus Pocus 2 feels like a lazy cash grab at times and a surprisingly fun and wildly entertaining nostalgia trip at others. The humor is hilarious and the Sandersons are always a delight to watch. It’s not as great as the original by any means, but it’s certainly worth watching along with it as an enjoyable double feature each and every October.