Movie Review: Hocus Pocus 2
Sometimes, cult classics receive sequels whether they should or not. I mean, are you aware of how many Tremors or Saw movies there are?
In other instances, fans wait far too long for a sequel. Then, when they finally get it, the outcome is something like Blue Brothers 2000, which I swear is a real thing. And that film didn’t even come out in 2000!
In rare instances, somebody comes in long after the fact and somehow recaptures the magic of the first film.
We’ve witnessed this unlikely feat twice in 2022. The first time occurred with Top Gun: Maverick.
Now, the second instance has arrived on Disney+. Here’s a Hocus Pocus 2 review…for a film that’s much better than the original.
My Hocus Pocus Confession
I’m never getting invited on any podcasts to talk about 1993’s Hocus Pocus because I’m too honest here.
Yes, I’m aware that many people love the film, and I’m happy for you all. I want you to find pleasures wherever you can in life. If that happens with Hocus Pocus, great!
However, I grew up in the Blockbuster era, wherein you could watch cult classics on video cassettes.
In those days, Hocus Pocus started as a laughingstock before gradually fighting its way to cult classic status little by little each Halloween season.
From day one, everyone loved the trailer and its catchphrase, “Amuck! Amuck! Amuck!” It was the first half of the movie we could have done without.
Disney handed the reins on this project to a fledgling director who had made his bones as a choreographer, starting with his work on another cult classic, Xanadu.
Alas, Disney hired Kenny Ortega to direct Newsies in 1992 and then Hocus Pocus in 1993, effectively back-to-back projects. Then, he vanished for years.
Ortega wouldn’t direct another movie until the Disney Channel’s High School Musical in 2006.
That 13-year period of darkness indicates Hollywood’s perception of Ortega’s early work as a director.
Ortega, who is now a Disney Legend, miscalculated badly with the Hocus Pocus script. He had pots of gold in his hands but didn’t appreciate it.
The reason why so many people skip to the second half of Hocus Pocus is obvious. That’s when the Sanderson Sisters go into motion.
Before then, there’s far too much world-building that goes nowhere.
Once the witches introduce themselves to modern society, Hocus Pocus becomes kinetic and fun.
A Smart Sequel
Hocus Pocus 2 director Anne Fletcher is also a child of the VCR era. She’s had tremendous success in Hollywood and broke some box office records from 2006-2009.
At the time, few female directors worked in the industry. Fletcher not only held jobs but turned smaller projects into blockbusters. She’s a brilliant talent.
More importantly, Fletcher recognizes what a younger Kenny Ortega didn’t. She unleashes the Sanderson Sisters reasonably early in the film and then lets them chew the scenery.
In short, Fletcher gives the people what they want after nearly 30 years. We finally get a Sanderson Sisters movie focusing fully on these three unique characters.
Clearly, the actresses portraying these characters also relish the opportunity of some vindication.
The early reviews for Hocus Pocus were absolutely savage. They set back the film career of Sarah Jessica Parker in particular.
Now, they return as conquering heroines – well, anti-heroines – whose film has found a loving home during the streaming media era.
Return of the Macks
All three women have done enough fan conventions by now to know what people love about each character. So, they’re more than ready to provide more.
Bette Midler has always anchored the group as Winnie, the smartest and most powerful of the three. Her character gets an origin story here as well.
The teen actress who portrays the character absolutely nails Midler’s behaviors from the first film. It’s impressive.
Meanwhile, Parker returns as Sarah, the slowest sister. However, we learn she’s crazy (and insecure) rather than an idiot in this film, a development I enjoy.
Finally, the ever-stellar Kathy Najimy steals multiple scenes as Mary, the middle sister with the permanent sneer.
Mary has always gotten my vote as the best Sanderson Sister, and I suspect Fletcher agrees. Najimy seems to be having the most fun of The Three Weird Sisters.
Without spoiling much, the trio experiences a kind of resurrection and returns to Salem. Here, they discover how much can change in 30 years.
The modern Salem is nothing like what they remember. Even a simple trip to the drug store provides confusion…and a new kind of broom.
Revenge! Revenge! Revenge!
We also have a new coven of teen witches, high school friends who must face the unexpected threat of the Sanderson Sisters.
However, I doubt you care about that as much. Instead, your kids will relate to the teenagers surviving the aftermath of their parents’ mistakes.
Instead, you’ll relish every opportunity for the Sanderson Sisters to bewitch the town – literally in one instance – and take their revenge.
The poor Mayor of Salem happens to look just like the Reverend who banished Winnie in 1653. So, that dude is probably toast.
Then again, he happens to be the father of the estranged member of the witch coven, one that has apparently been practicing spells since they were five years old.
What happens next is fairly predictable, but you won’t care. You’ll be smiling too much. In fact, we can do a quick test to see whether you’ll like the film.
If you like these lines of dialogue, you’ll know that Hocus Pocus 2 is for you!
- “Wasn’t there a moon?”
- “I dunno, but I literally can’t stop watching them.”
- “Don’t make me come over there with this broom.”
The first and second lines here make little sense without context, but I busted up at the second one. It’s a clever breaking of the fourth wall without actually doing so.
The conceit of Hocus Pocus 2 is that the town is painfully aware of the events of 1993. In fact, the Sanderson Sisters have become cult heroes.
We wind up with the real witches competing in a competition for best Sanderson cosplay at one point. It’s that type of tongue-in-cheek project.
Fletcher never takes any of this seriously, the mistake Ortega made during the first half of Hocus Pocus. Instead, the sequel is just plain fun from start to finish.
As someone who enjoys the Sanderson Sisters, I’m thrilled they have received a movie worthy of 30 years of hype.
I fully expect fans of Hocus Pocus to adore this sequel. It may even win over a few non-fans with its charm and spirit. I’d give an B+.
Let us know in the comments what you think of this Hocus Pocus 2 review!