Although the 1993 movie Hocus Pocus, directed by Kenny Ortega, wasn’t a big hit when it came out, history has been kind to it and has made it into a sort of Halloween tradition for kids of a certain generation. Disney has chosen to bring the sorcerous Sanderson sisters back for another adventure in Hocus Pocus 2 because everything old ultimately becomes new again in this day and age, especially if it has achieved the kind of post-release notoriety Hocus Pocus has.
As Winifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson, the three witches who were unintentionally brought back to life in the 1993 film and terrorized Salem before being defeated by a group of bright young people and a mystical black cat, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy return in Hocus Pocus 2. The premise of this sequel, directed by Step Up and 27 Dresses filmmaker Anne Fletcher, centers on a new group of Salem children who unwittingly unleash the Sanderson sisters free on the town again 29 years after the events of the original film.
Hocus Pocus 2 manages to capture a lot of the same vigor, wit, and festive playfulness of its predecessor, which will appeal to fans of the 1993 film.
You wouldn’t know from the way Midler, Parker, and Najimy seamlessly transition back into their roles in Hocus Pocus 2 that it has been over three decades since they were in the original movie. The trio has a natural synergy in both movies, which is evident in the way they move, sing, and dance together as well as their sibling banter when they plot, dispute, commiserate, and celebrate. The youngsters may be the story’s heroes, much like in the first movie, but the Sanderson sisters steal the show in Hocus Pocus 2.
Additionally, Hocus Pocus 2 does a good job of avoiding the difficulties several sequels run into when trying to add a new chapter to a movie that was first released many years ago. Hocus Pocus 2 focuses on the Sanderson sisters’ time-displaced return and how things have changed since their previous adventure in the contemporary world, rather than attempting to reproduce the original movie in the present or altering the characters to better fit a modern tale. Hocus Pocus 2 and its screenwriter, Jen D’Angelo, come up with some ingenious ways to incorporate the time that has passed between the two movies into the plot, from the popularity of robot vacuums (as opposed to brooms) to the modern conveniences that we take for granted but to the Sandersons would be completely new magic.
And once more, just like the first movie, which had some competent performances from its younger cast members, including Thora Birch, a nominee for an Emmy and a BAFTA, among others, Hocus Pocus 2 likewise employs several competent young performers as its adolescent protagonists.
Becca, the character who inadvertently brings the Sanderson sisters back to life in the movie, is portrayed by Gossip Girl actor Whitney Peak. She excels in the role and embodies the sincerity that such Disney productions call for. With her are Lilia Buckingham and Belissa Escobedo, who play Cassie and Izzy, respectively, as well as Froy Gutierrez, who plays Cassie’s dimwitted boyfriend. When the Sanderson sisters are not there, the other three performers make the story interesting and hilarious to watch.
The movie also features some well-known actors reprising their amusing roles, including Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water), who played the undead Billy Butcherson in the first place, and Hannah Waddingham (Ted Lasso), who played a significant role in the Sanderson sisters’ formative years. All three performers further enhance the entertainment factor of a lighthearted movie along with Tony Hale (Arrested Development) who plays the mayor of Salem.
Hocus Pocus 2 doesn’t do much to diminish the reputation of the Sanderson sisters’ first movie, even though it is unclear if it will be able to inspire the same level of cult following as the original. People who view Hocus Pocus as a Halloween tradition are likely to warm up to this new, two-film epic with the Sandersons in the future because the trio’s reappearance gives viewers even more of a good thing.
The Disney+ streaming service will debut Hocus Pocus 2 on September 30.