1 1/2 Stars

Hocus Pocus 2 (2022)

Will solidify its predecessor as a cult classic. A cult I refuse membership to.

Just under a year ago, I remember a hangout with some of my best friends. We decided to watch a movie in the backyard with the big screen. The movie chosen beforehand was Hocus Pocus, a movie familiar to many 90s children like myself. I had revisited the film at least once before as an adult, and was sadly underwhelmed, for the nostalgia did not hold up. Yet I care for my friends and wanted to have a good time, so I persisted.

As I looked back at Roger Ebert’s review of the original, he said it was “like attending a party you weren’t invited to, and where you don’t know anybody, and they’re all in on a joke but won’t explain it to you.” 

Oh, I liked it a fair deal as a child, imagining what it would be like to face off against actual witches on Halloween night. The thing is, I grew up, and realized that the magic had dissipated. You can therefore imagine my thoughts as I began to watch the sequel.

After a flashback of showing the teenage Sanderson sisters becoming witches, we are thrown into modern day Salem. It is once again Halloween, as well as the 16th birthday of Becca (Whitney Peak). A fan of witchcraft, she tries to continue her annual tradition of a magical ritual with her friend Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) but without their estranged friend Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), now more in the popular crowd. The ritual goes wrong, and the Sanderson sisters are, of course, brought back to wreak havoc on Salem, especially directed toward the mayor (and Cassie’s dad), Jefry Traske (Tony Hale), a descendant ofth the Reverend who banished the witches as teenagers.

Bette Milder, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy reprise their roles as Winifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson, respectively. Doug Jones also returns as the zombie Billy Butcherson, though he talks in this film. To their credit, they still bring the same amount of energy they had nearly three decades ago (as well as some of their trademark attributes and lines). Sarah is still the brainless airhead, with Mary as the follower of her own nose (she can smell children). Then there is Winifred, who, like Miss M, is “always” in search of a stage.

The question, however, is if they are served worthy material. For fans of the original, perhaps, but not really for the rest of us. I am all for “fish out of water” stories in any genre, from Some Like it Hot in the late 1950s to 2007’s Enchanted (which is also getting a sequel sent directly to Disney Plus later this year). While not all the humor falls flat (I did smile at the Witches trip to Walgreens as well as their encounter with Alexa), some of it does seem rather predictable to those who have seen the original (except that one time when one of the witches sees a TV playing the original film).

Aside from those I have already mentioned, there are no real adult characters in the film other than Gilbert (Sam Richardson), owner of a magic gift shop (as well as the former home of the Sanderson sisters). As was the case in the original, the majority of the non magical adults were there to be basically oblivious to the situation of real life witches in Salem, and the sequel is no exception (minus Gilbert). Perhaps it is just a way of letting the youngsters in the audience to feel like they can save the day without intelligent adult assistance.

Speaking of which (or is it witch?) parents, the kids will be fine seeing this if they have seen the original. There is no sex in the film (though a moment where a kid askes what a virgin is), with some mild swearing and very low key violence.

At the end of the film, the movie actually tries to tone down the comedy and step a little into the more dramatic, almost bittersweet territory that the original did not. While it was moving in a sense, it seemed somewhat tacked on. Either way, I am sure Hocus Pocus 2 will solidify its predecessor as a cult classic.

A cult I refuse membership to.


Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

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