Three witch sisters who were murdered in Salem in 1693 return to wreak havoc 300 years later on Halloween in the Disney film “Hocus Pocus,” released in 1993. It is a cultural landmark rather than just a classic. It was only moderately successful when it was first released, but it quickly became popular on home video and cable. Many families now watch it every year, and parents who enjoyed it in the 1990s pass it forward to the younger generation. Through the use of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as a sort of witchy Three Stooges, Disney managed to strike the perfect balance between the eerie and the ludicrous. While Parker played Sarah, a fluttery, Curly-like scatterbrain, and Najimy played Mary, the Larry of the group who never quite manages to make anything work but is confident that she’s nailing it, Midler’s Winifred served as the short-tempered, Moe-like ringleader.
As it pays respect to the original while also introducing some welcome diversity, a few subtle changes, and a lack of some violent themes, “Hocus Pocus 2” should please fans of all ages. It is also a little bit sweeter than the original, which is another reason why it should be well received. The hapless zombie Billy Butcherson is played by Doug Jones, the always horrifying actor known for playing the creature in “The Shape of Water” and Abe in “Hellboy,” who is also a member of the adult cast from the original movie. Hannah Waddingham from “Ted Lasso,” Tony Hale, Sam Richardson, and other strong comics figures are great additions.
This film is about friendship; the first one was about the relationships between brothers and sisters (with a little teen romance). And we learn a little about their history. Following an aerial introduction that alludes to the first “Hocus Pocus,” we meet the Sanderson sisters as little children. The Pilgrim hamlet is first seen scrambling out of the path as Winnie stomps through the village. Taylor Henderson portrays the young Winnie, replete with buck teeth and wild red hair. She does Midler’s alpha witch in a humorous and witty way. Since the Sanderson parents have passed away, Winnie must wed a young man from the community, and the younger girls will be sent to live with another family, according to the local clergyman Reverend Traske (Tony Hale). Winnie declines, and the girls flee to the forbidden forest where they find a very glam witch (Waddingham) who gives them one of the essential props from the original film—the book of spells with the real-life opening eyeball that, I suppose, sees.
Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), two high school classmates, are preparing for Becca’s birthday sleepover, a custom they have every year on Halloween. Since Cassie (Lilia Buckingham) hasn’t been hanging out with the group lately because she’s been spending all of her time with her boyfriend, they will have to go without her this year. Becca and Izzy frequently visit Gilbert, the proprietor of the neighborhood magic shop, to practice their magic (Richardson). Even though they are well aware of the Sanderson sisters mythology, they burn the black candle he offers them, which is the second important object from the previous film. (There is a joke about the need for virginity to trigger the candle’s ability to summon the witches back, but no explanation is given.)
Thus, the Sandersons make their way back on Halloween night as trick-or-treaters and costumed partygoers are out enjoying the holiday, headed by the town’s cheery mayor, who also happens to be Cassie’s strict father. He is an offspring of Reverend Traske, and Hale once more portrays him. The witches seek to exact revenge on Traske and like in the first movie, they want to breathe in child essence to maintain their youth forever.
“Hocus Pocus 2” skilfully strikes a balance between the necessity to retain just enough of the original to satisfy fans and the need to avoid growing stale or confusing for newcomers. There is a beautiful musical sequence that emphasizes the best parts of the original movie, and there are several hilarious scenes, such as a Sanderson sisters costume contest. The fact that intelligent, brave, and devoted teenagers receive more humorous goodies than tricks is hardly a spoiler. The audience agrees.
Photo Credits: https://www.countryliving.com/