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Disney+ Review: Hocus Pocus 2

September 29, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The witches are back in the new Disney+ legacy sequel Hocus Pocus 2, which sees those eccentric Sanderson Sisters – Winnie (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) – returning to modern day Salem.

Set 29 years after the events (and release) of Disney’s 1993 film Hocus Pocus, this surprisingly fun sequel follows a new group of teenagers who accidentally bring the three witches from the 1600s back to life by lighting the Black Flame Candle on Halloween.

Becca (Whitney Peak) is an aspiring witch whose birthday falls on Halloween, with her annual tradition being to have a sleepover with her best friends Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), and spend the night reciting spells and watching scary movies. But things are a little different this year, and there is a rift in their friend circle.

While Becca and Izzy are perpetual outsiders and still quite close, Cassie has become popular and drifted away from their trio, and is planning her own Halloween house party while her father Jefry Traske (Tony Hale), who happens to be the Mayor of Salem, is busy with the town’s festivities. Becca is given an old candle as a gift from Gilbert (Sam Richardson), the eccentric owner of a magic shop where the old spell book belonging to the Sanderson Sisters is held. The candle is lit, the Sanderson Sisters come back looking for the book, and the girls have until dawn to send them back.

As far as direct-to-streaming legacy sequels that weren’t really needed go, Hocus Pocus 2 is actually a surprisingly enjoyable one. Directed by Anne Fletcher (Step Up, The Proposal), the film finds a good balance between offering moments of fan service and callbacks to the original – including the well handled return of the sisters’ reanimated former lover, Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones) – while also successfully playing to a new audience as a slightly spooky but mostly fun Halloween movie.

It’s a followup that likely wouldn’t have even existed in its current form if the original film had not gained such a following (and gotten a reappraisal) from nineties kids who grew up with it, and Hocus Pocus 2 smartly plays to this contingent of the audience as well. This is homage to the first as much as anything else, with the Sanderson Sisters being treated by many in Salem as icons worthy of Halloween costumes much in the same the characters are in our world. It’s fitting, then, that Hocus Pocus 2 also acknowledges the campy (i.e., queer) following that the first film has gained, including an amusing costume contest sequence involving drag queens.

The film largely follows the same beats as the first one, but the screenplay by TV writer Jen D’Angelo has enough bits that work for the film to be satisfying overall (including a very good opening prologue that serves as a flashback to when the Sanderson Sisters were young in the late-1600s). If this sequel’s three new teenage leads aren’t as compellingly written as the young characters in the original, their story of friendship does nicely mirror that of the Sanderson Sisters.

Put simply, Hocus Pocus 2 works as an undemanding good time that offers exactly what you want as both legacy sequel and spooky season treat. Middler, Najimy and Parker are simply having so much fun reprising their beloved Halloween character roles, whether delightfully riffing off each other or during the boisterous musical numbers, that it’s hard not to have a ball along with them.

Hocus Pocus 2 will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ as of September 30th.

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