Premiered September 30, 2022.
On Halloween Night, 1993, in Salem Massachusetts, Winifred Sanderson (Bette Midler) and her sisters Mary (Kathy Najimy) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) were resurrected when a black flame candle was lit.
Twenty-nine years later, history repeats itself when two witchcraft-curious Salem teens named Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) prepare to celebrate Halloween and Becca’s sixteenth birthday. They refuse a party invitation from their estranged friend Cassie Traske (Lilia Buckingham) and go to the woods to perform Becca’s birthday ritual. The girls light a black flame candle during the ritual and accidentally summon our favorite witches from the beyond.
The Sanderson sisters are excited about their return. They’re once again determined to brew a potion that steals the souls of children in order to gain eternal youth for themselves. Lizzy and Becca pretend to idolize the sisters and that a potion containing children’s souls can be bought at the local apothecary…a Walgreen’s drug store. The girls trick the witches into thinking that various beauty products in the drug store will achieve the same effect as their potion, but the ruse does not work for long.
The witchy trio winds up at their old home, which is now a magic shop, managed by a man named Gilbert (Sam Richardson). He became a fan of the Sandersons sisters when he saw them when they wrecking havoc in Salem in 1993. Gilbert has been trying to revive them ever since so he agrees to help the sisters.
Meanwhile, the Sandersons stumble on a campaign flier for Mayor Jefry Traske (Tony Hale) - who also happens to be Cassie’s father. The witches realize that the mayor is a descendent of Reverend Traske, who banished them from Salem in 1653.
They decide to take vengeance upon Traske and Salem by using his blood to create the dangerous Magicae Maxima spell which the sisters believe will make them all-powerful and immortal. They leave to hunt down Traske after trapping Becca and Izzy in the basement. They force Gilbert to collect the other ingredients. Gilbert digs up Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones) from the graveyard and enlists Billy’s aid in collecting potion ingredients. Billy doesn’t realize that his head is one of the items needed to complete the spell. The girls manage to escape from the basement and attempt to contact Cassie to warn her about the Sandersons’ return.
Magical mischief and mayhem ensue and in order to find out whether Winnie, Mary and Sarah succeed in carrying out their plans, you will have to watch the movie!
Hocus Pocus 2 builds upon the cult nostalgia surrounding the first movie and has a lot of fun doing so. There are quite a few nods to the original 1993 film (but alas, none of the original actors playing the kids who defeat the Sanderson sisters in the first film return). That being said, Midler, Najimy and Parker are always super entertaining to watch in their silly witchy roles.
Winnie, Mary and Sarah also get another chance to shine musically with a scene set to Elton John’s “The Bitch Is Back” appropriately re-titled to “The Witches Are Back” as well as a big song and dance number featuring their take on “One Way or Another” - originally of Blondie fame.
I appreciated the somewhat fleshed out 17th century backstory the film gives to the Sanderson sisters – Winnie defies authority and refuses to marry and then fights to save her sisters from being taken away from her. But I also appreciate that [SPOILER] our delightfully naughty witches never do get *completely* redeemed either.
Some of the jokes feel a bit re-hashed from the original movie, but the cast makes the material enjoyable even if it is a *bit* familiar.
I also found it interesting that since there is a nearly 30 year gap between the original 1993 Hocus Pocus and its sequel, one can see some distinct differences in the way Halloween is celebrated then and now. Spookiness, treats and costumes remain consistent, but the context changes a bit. For example, the big trick or treating scene from the first movie has been replaced with a Halloween carnival which feels more like the “trunk or treat” events that have become rather more prevalent today.
All in all, Hocus Pocus 2 is good silly fun – not quite as good as the first movie, but enjoyable.
2 and a half jack o' lanterns.
J.A. Morris says:
I am mostly in agreement with RigbyMel about Hocus Pocus 2. It’s a good sequel, about on par with the original. It’s a fun Halloween movie, nothing more, nothing less. Like the original Hocus Pocus, this movie is worth watching due to the presence of Midler, Parker and Najimy. They’re all funny and their musical performances made me smile. The younger actors are likable and do a good job in their roles.
I don’t understand why none of the actors from the original movie appeared in Hocus Pocus 2. Most are still alive and it would’ve made the sequel feel more connected to its predecessor.
There’s a scene during the flashback to 1653 where the young Sanderson sisters encounter the Witch Mother, who is played by Hannah Waddingham (of Ted Lasso fame). The Witch Mother arrives with much fanfare and I expected to see her again during the portion of the movie set in the present.
However (SPOILER ALERT), the Witch Mother is never seen or mentioned again. I’m not sure why they teased the character and brought in an actor of Waddingham’s caliber for one brief scene.
I was also annoyed by the preponderance of product placements on display in this movie, most notably during the Sanderson's visit to Walgreen's.
Hocus Pocus 2 is recommended for anyone who liked the first movie or if you’re just looking for some light seasonal fare. But I doubt it will attain the “modern Halloween classic” status of the 1993 film.
J.A. Morris’ rating: