Review by Dan Skip Allen
Hocus Pocus 2 is the sequel to the 1993 cult classic Hocus Pocus, starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimi as the Sanderson Sisters. They disintegrated at the end of the last film. This film picks up in Selem when they were children, but it mainly focuses on three young ladies in modern-day Salem, Massachusetts. They had to find a way to bring these sisters back for the sequel, or there wouldn't be a second film.
Becca (Whitney Peak), Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), and Cassie (Lila Buckingham) are three typical high schoolers in Salem. They get picked on, and they're a bit odd, like teen girls can be. However, the history of the Sanderson Sisters and witches, in general, hangs over the head of this community. Inadvertently they bring the sisters back to life, who get up to their same old tricks again.
Once the sisters come back to life, the comedy and singing and dancing ensue. The three actresses take this opportunity of returning to flex their comedic chops in various scenes. They go to Walgreens, start drinking cleaning fluids, and get into things they shouldn't. Rather than brooms, a couple of the sisters use a Swiffer and Roomba to travel. This is part of the oddball comedy the film chooses to go with.
With the comedy also comes two inexplicable singing/dance numbers where the sisters sing "The Witch is Back," a take on "The Bitch is Back," and another big number. This isn't new, though, because they did "We Put a Spell on You" in the previous film. This is the type of thing this film is going for. It's not trying to be serious in any way. It's going with the campy absurd route, and that's what audiences can expect from this film. It's not going to be for everybody, but fans of the original might like it.
This sequel has a familiar cast of returning characters, but it also has a few new characters with notable actors portraying them. Tony Hale does double duty as a town mayor way back in the 1700s Salem carrying his pitchfork and a newer version of a similar role in modern-day Salem. Hannah Waddingham (Ted Lasso) plays a Mother Witch, the mentor figure for the Sanderson Sisters. Sam Richardson plays Gilbert, an archivist of the town and sisters.
This movie doubles down on the previous film from 1993, but this story doesn't necessarily resonate with a modern-day audience. It just comes off as campy and weird. I couldn't imagine adults actually enjoying this film in the least. The music numbers might entertain children or teens, which is why the film was put on Disney+ instead of being released in theaters like the original.
One redeeming element this film has is the director's recruitment of a good cinematographer, Elliot Davis. The movie looks really good, and some of the visual effects look quite nice. The technical aspects of the film show some potential for the director, Anne Fletcher. That's about all the positive feedback I can give for this movie sequel with awful acting and a terrible script for them to work off.
Hocus Pocus 2 is another prime example of why sequels, prequels, and reboots aren't always the best way to make films. Sure, there is a nostalgia factor where the teen girls who grew up with this film back in the day are probably mothers and aunts and maybe grandmothers, so they want to share this film with their young children, nieces, and grandchildren. I'm here to say it wasn't scary at all. There just wasn't a need to do this film. It doesn't say anything new or does anything to advance this franchise in any way. It's just another excuse to make a film and give paydays to actresses who don't need it. This is not a good film in the least, no matter who the target audience is.
Hocus Pocus 2 streams on Disney+ beginning September 30.
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