After nearly 30 years in the making, the long-awaited sequel to cult classic Hocus Pocus finally hit Disney+ last week. Having been rumoured for decades, it seemed impossible that we’d ever see a return of the Sanderson sisters. But we finally have the sequel we’ve been waiting for, and it’s actually pretty decent.
The film opens in Salem in the 1600s, as a young Winifred Sanderson (Taylor Henderson) celebrates her birthday alongside sisters Sarah (Juju Journey Brener) and Mary (Nina Kitchen). But after causing trouble with the locals, the birthday celebrations are cut short as Reverend Traske (Tony Hale) runs the girls out of town and into the forbidden woods beyond. Here they meet a mysterious witch (Hannah Waddingham) who gifts Winifred with the magic book, which the girls use to take revenge on the townsfolk of Salem.
Back in the present day, it’s 29 years since the Sanderson sisters were resurrected by the black flame candle. Teenagers Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) are getting ready to celebrate both Halloween and Becca’s 16th birthday, and visit their local magic shop, which just so happens to be in the Sanderson sisters’ old home. Becca is gifted a candle by shop owner Gilbert (Sam Richardson) for her birthday ritual, and the girls head to the local woods and light the candle. The moment they do, the flame turns black and the candle resurrects the Sanderson sisters once again.
With only one evening to resurrect themselves forever, Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimy) go back to their book determined to brew up the potion that will help them take the lives of all of the local children. However, they soon discover that the local mayor (Tony Hale) is a descendant of their old foe Reverend Traske and Winifred becomes intent on seeking revenge by invoking the most powerful magic spell of all. Meanwhile, Becca and Izzy must enlist the help of their estranged friend Cassie (Lilia Buckingham) to protect Cassie’s father (Mayor Traske) and stop the sisters for good.
To say my expectations for this film were high would be an understatement. The original is one of the most treasured films of my childhood and I still love it to this day, so this sequel had a lot to live up to. And surprisingly, it doesn’t fall too short of expectations. With sequels to classic films, there’s a fine line between a nostalgic homage to the original and just outright copying and a lack of originality, and Hocus Pocus 2 is, fortunately, the former. It’s packed full of nostalgic charm with a whole heap of gags and general silliness that cleverly nod to the original without ever feeling like a carbon copy, and it warmed my heart to be back with the Sanderson sisters again.
Seeing the original trio back on screen again was incredibly gratifying and it was entertaining to see them bring back the silliness and stupidity that we know so well, yet without ever seeming misplaced. And it’s impressive that they’ve managed to allow these characters to develop more than we thought possible. The rest of the cast too all brought their own charm to their respective characters although the three actresses playing the younger Sanderson sisters, getting the mannerisms just right, were particular standouts.
It’s a shame then that there are some aspects of this film that really let it down and stop it from becoming as good as the original. The CGI and green screens were particularly weak and a lot of it was very dodgy and detracted from the action. I know times have changed since the first film’s release in 1993, but the physical effects were part of the original’s charm. However, the biggest issue I had with this sequel was the musical numbers. In the original, the musical numbers were enchanting and felt entirely in keeping with the rest of the story, but here they felt misplaced. I’d been dying to see how they’d fit songs into this sequel but the end result was such a let-down, and I think this was mostly due to song choice. The original’s ‘I Put a Spell on You’ fit perfectly with the plot and witchcraft theme of the film, but the Elton John and Blondie songs used here just weren’t right.
Despite incredibly high expectations, Hocus Pocus 2 does surprisingly well. It falls a little short of the original but is still a fun-packed nostalgia fest that kept me entertained and made me very happy. I just wish they hadn’t gone down the predictable Disney route with the end credits scene.
A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!