Hocus Pocus Movie 2 is now available on Disney+
For certain millennials of a certain age (myself, perhaps, included), there’s something fittingly ritualistic about the consumption of 1993 witchcraft comedy Hocus Pocus, a film set, and set to be watched, on Halloween. It’s as tied to the day as bobbing for apples and being scared of teenagers. There is little thought given to what it really is; instead adoration is centered on how aesthetically it once looked and still oversees older generations while also praising itself. When nostalgia overwhelms objectivity, adding anything new can invite criticism because a belief in past glory dominates the encounter. The new becomes tainted by this prior admiration.
HOCUS POCUS MOVIE REVIEW:
So like many fan favorite follow ups, Hocus Pocus 2 is stuck between audiences and tones trying to accomplish this task while achieving so little. It’s structurally more akin to a remake; it aspires to cater to older die hard but being accessible for newcomers. This might be an impossible task (recent re-hires of Crap n Dale and Scary managed to do this well enough) but it’s one that it struggles with throughout – the broomstick barely hovering off the ground. At times it feels more like an extended skit on SNL rather than a real movie. It lacks the soul, propulsion and necessity that needs.
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As Sam Richardson’s local historian/gift shop owner awkwardly reminds us, it was 29 years ago since the Sanderson sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy) last came to Salem (why they didn’t wait for it to be a clean 30 is a mystery), and since then their legend has become commercialized and rewired, for some. This awkward cold open takes us back to when the three sisters were children and expelled by the locals because they were considered too unconventional, bucking the male-dominated culture of their time with marriage refusing and finding solace in the woods and a witch (a spirited Hannah Waddingham) who taught them how to be independent. So while the first film began with the three witches sucking the life out of a small child, this one sets them up as radical girl bosses. In this strange edit change, however, somehow in no way does it make them seem like retrograde women by not having one child murdered that year–instead paying lip service to advanced social movements or something.
The Sanderson sisters were never as harsh as Roald Dahl’s witches, but they were still clear-cut villains. They absorbed the life force of children and someone in 27 Dresses director Anne Fletcher’s release wanted them to be sanded down to dust. However, there is a lot more politics in Salem including how witchcraft could allow women to make a difference. Hocus Pocus 2: Witchy Party may not be the best place to explore these deeper themes. The contemporary touch done with a heavy hand was discordant in the finale where the film turned into something that feels like Mean Girls on Broadway more than anything else, with Regina George becoming a feminist badass after her transformation. Even the jock bully becomes dumb dope because he’s just an average jock who didn’t understand what was going on when mean girls started being nice to him. Is it bad to want baddies still be … bad?
Again, Thora Birch leads this sequel as the strongest Witch of them all. She has age-appropriate friends played by Whitney Peak and Belissa Escobedo, who serve as stooges for her escape plan. The new world created for this movie feels less significant or engaging than previous sets, as though it’s never quite sure what rules it’s supposed to follow, which only makes the characters feel more like they live in a real time TV commercial. The dialogue becomes exposition and there are indulgent songs that seem to be retooled into show tunes with Broadway ambitions. The makers also seem confused about where we are with constant shifts in viewership, so viewers will often find themselves watching clips from the original at seemingly random times–as if trying to find clues about how their own lives may be linked to the main plotline.
Once the three returns, they are as fierce as ever in their commitment despite dialogue from Jen D’Angelo that is redundant to make the movie more likable. The shift from psychotic menace to boring negligence means less of a culture clash and the comedy is not as intense because the time gap between films is smaller.
Halloween isn’t really celebrated in past years, but it’s likely that many families will be watching Hocus Pocus 2 together this year. Next Halloween, I doubt they’ll be watching it again.