REVIEW: ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ is Wickedly Campy

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Hocus Pocus 2 - But Why Tho

Hocus Pocus 2 is a fantasy comedy film stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy, as the wickedly campy Sanderson Sisters. Hocus Pocus 2 is directed by Anne Fletcher, written by Jen D’Angelo and is produced by Walt Disney Pictures. The film’s cast also includes Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham, Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, Tony Hale, Doug Jones, and Sam Richardson

It has been 29 years since we last saw the Sanderson sisters in the cult classic Hocus Pocus (1993). Now, in Hocus Pocus 2, two young girls accidentally bring back the Sanderson Sisters to life (again). The witches are not just looking to lure and eat children this time. They are back with a vengeance and thirst for ultimate power. Now it is up to a trio of young friends to figure out how to stop the child and power-hungry witches from wreaking havoc on Salem and the world.

I will get right to it, the plot is the weakest part of Hocus Pocus 2. That does not mean the film is unwatchable or bad because of the weak plot. Overall the plot follows a similar recipe as the original Hocus Pocus (1993). Hocus Pocus 2 is full of hijinks, poppy music numbers, and quick-witted quips. 

The film opens with the Sanderson Sisters’ origin story of how they became witches. For being some of Disney’s most popular characters, there is very little known about them and their magic. However, the moment is short-lived and over just as quickly as it begins. It would have been a nice touch if the film delved more into the Sanderson sister’s backstory and lore. For example, how do you introduce an enigmatic and alluring character like Waddington’s Witch Mother but not delve into that more.

Unfortunately, another misstep in the plot is trying to add a little humanity to the Sanderson Sisters. In true modern Disney fashion, instead of being evil witches that eat children, Hocus Pocus 2 decides to humanize Winnifred and her sisters, ever so slightly, to justify why they chose a life of witchcraft. The film would have been fine without humanization, but some people might appreciate it. 

There is also the matter of the B-plot centered on Becca and Izzy, resolving their issues with their childhood friend, Cassie. Where the first film focused on sibling relationships, Hocus Pocus 2 focuses on female bonds, sisterhood, and the power of friendship. The setup for this storyline had potential, but the execution of the resolution was rushed. However, that can be chopped up to a restrictive 90-minute runtime. 

When it comes to casting and chemistry, Hocus Pocus 2 nails it. The filmmakers made the right choice by recasting Midler, Parker, and Najimy as the Sanderson Sisters. There is just no one that plays these wicked sisters quite as well as these three. The trio brings the same flair and star power to their roles as they did nearly 30 years ago. Unfortunately, there are some moments when the jokes fall flat, but Midler, Parker, and Najimy make it work. 

Surprisingly enough, I could not get enough of the interactions between Gilbert and Billy. Richardson and Jones are a delightfully entertaining duo, even with the bit of screen time they get together. The two play well off of one another in every scene together. Hocus Pocus 2 also brings a new batch of newcomers to the franchise. Whitney Peak, and Belissa Escobedo, play very well off another as best friends, Becca and Izzy. Their characters bring a fresh and more modern perspective on witchcraft. Their shared interest and love of magic are among their friends’ strongest bonds. 

Unfortunately, the film missed an opportunity to explore the themes of female empowerment and how witchcraft has historically played a role. The attempt they make to touch on it is very surface level. However, it is not surprising that a Disney property decided not to go there with this movie since it is trying to appease all audiences.

In its attempt to be appeasing and appropriate for all ages, the film struggle with wanting to touch on some darker themes but not being bold enough to discuss them directly. For example, when it comes to the subject of persecution and the witch trials, the films give a nod to it but do not dare to discuss it further. In one scene, The Witch Mother mentions to the young Sanderson Sisters that the world is not kind to witches. She presumably hints that her coven was wiped due to the witch trials.

If you are going into Hocus Pocus 2 expecting it to be better than the first, you may be disappointed. The sequel takes a slightly fresh and different approach to the franchise, story, and characters. Hocus Pocus 2 is brimming with hijinks, fun music numbers, and laughs. Unfortunately, the plot is the weakest link in this film. The film struggles with touching on some darker themes as it attempts to appeal to all ages. However, thanks to the tremendous chemistry between a stellar returning and a new cast of characters, it captures some of the nostalgic magic that made it a cult classic all those years ago. 

Hocus Pocus 2 is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.


Hocus Pocus 2
  • 6.5/10
    Rating - 6.5/10
6.5/10

TL;DR

Hocus Pocus 2 is brimming with hijinks, fun music numbers, and laughs. Unfortunately, the plot is the weakest link in this film. The film struggles with touching on some darker themes as it attempts to appeal to all ages. However, thanks to the tremendous chemistry between a stellar returning and a new cast of characters, it captures some of the nostalgic magic that made it a cult classic all those years ago. 

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