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Quick Review: Hocus Pocus 2
A Wickedly Glorious Return
The following is my review for the film Hocus Pocus 2. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I grade films when I review them.
It’s been twenty-nine years since someone lit the Black Flame Candle and resurrected the seventeenth-century sisters, and they are looking for revenge. Now it is up to three high-school students to stop the ravenous witches from wreaking a new kind of havoc on Salem before dawn on All Hallow’s Eve.
Twenty-nine years ago Disney had the baffling decision to release a new Halloween-themed movie in Hocus Pocus right smack in the middle of the Summer. I to this day have no idea what they were thinking but that decision plus negative reviews at a time when they mattered more to general audiences lead to its box office struggles. But in the years that followed, re-plays on the Disney Channel made it slowly but surely into a major mainstream classic of spooky season - to the point the characters and lore are now present during the Fall at Disney theme parks and resorts.
As one of those millennials who helped turn the original into a classic and considers it one of my favorite films from the solid year that was 1993, I was excited to see Disney would be releasing a legacy sequel on the Disney Plus app. However as trailers and marketing came in I started to have my expectations lowered. As of this writing, the movie has been much more divisive among the fanbase that made the first into a classic even though its been moderately better received critically than its source material was.
So after years of speculation, pre-production and in-production rumors, and now becoming a reality, how did I feel having now seen the sequel to one of my favorite Halloween season movies of all time? Well I will say it was a better film than the trailers teased it to be, but it (no pun intended) doesn’t come close to lighting up a candle to the original 1993 classic.
First let me go down the list of what works. The movie does a good job of keeping continuity with the 1993 film even while basically being a movie all of its own with completely new protagonists to battle the Sanderson sisters. It also expands the lore from the first film to add some depth to the sisters and their mythology while still keeping them baddie; so in a rare instance for Disney these days, the villains are indeed villains.
The entire movie still has that Halloween feel that the first movie accomplishes so well, and every time Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimi are on screen they hit absolute home runs as the wicked witches and feel as if they played these roles much more recent than a whole three decades ago. There’s also a new addition in the character of Gilbert played by Sam Richardson who has an intriguing character arc that almost has him in the role of us millennials who fell in love with the first movie.
But the movie has some glaring flaws that even I as a major fan of the first movie can’t ignore. For one, its overlong and could have been tighter at a runtime that exceeds even its predecessor. The quality of the way the movie looks jumps back and forth. The prologue is cinematic, then the film starts to swing between that cinematic quality and a film that very much looks like the straight to streamer it is. There’s two musical numbers in this and while one was done effectively, the other feels forced. There’s also some fourth-wall-breaking jokes that took me out of the movie a few times.
But the biggest issue I had was with our protagonists who seem to be in the middle of a teenage girl drama movie rather than a Hocus Pocus movie, and given they have connections to witchcraft that says something. Its no fault to the actresses who played them - Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, or Lilia Buckingham. They can only do so much with the written material given to them. But every time they were on screen I started to get bored with the movie - until inevitably the Sanderson sisters and their charisma came back on screen and saved the movie again for me.
This isn’t a movie that is going to convert those who are dumbfounded by those of us who made the 1993 original into a classic, and I do think even some of us who are fans will come away a bit unimpressed, but for the most part this was a decent family friendly Halloween/spooky season movie that will do the bare minimum for us fans. Its all just a bunch of hocus pocus, and if you’re down for it you’ll enjoy yourself.