REVIEW: Magical sequel or just a bunch of hocus pocus?

Hocus Pocus 2 exclusively on Disney Plus

Daniella Torres

Hocus Pocus 2 exclusively on Disney Plus

Halloween fanatics nationwide have long awaited the return of three lovable villains, a Halloween staple trio: the Sanderson Sisters.

After almost 30 years, Disney has resurrected the black flame magic. Hocus Pocus 2, with a 55% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, made its comeback on September 30, 2022.

Set in the present day, the movie begins with a reflection of the sisters’ past. The audience is given a view into the development of these shunned witches, vindictive of the man who made them out to be villains. Hungry for revenge, the Sanderson legacy is born. 

Returning actresses Bette Midler (Winifred), Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah), and Kathy Najimy (Mary) portray the Sanderson sisters brought back to life by the black flame candle, where they find themselves stuck in 17th century ideals but lost in a 21st century setting. The story follows two main female protagonists, Becca and Izzy. The girls, Halloween-obsessed crystal fanatics, are given a candle by their charismatic local magic shop owner, Gilbert. On the night of Becca’s birthday, in traditional “birthday ritual” style, the new candle is lit, and the Sanderson Sisters’ make their usual dramatic return. Yes, Salem, they’re back.

Throughout the movie, the sisters run amok in attempts to take over Salem and seek revenge on the Reverend, while struggling to adapt to futuristic settings. Becca and Izzy jump through hoops to save the town from the evils of the Sanderson magic and make new discoveries along the way. The film features cameos from the first Hocus Pocus, comedic attributes, and modern Disney cinematography. This current type of cinematography made with a new generation in mind leaves some viewers longing for the nostalgic qualities of the original Hocus Pocus.

The film, made 29 years after its prequel, takes a more modern approach to Disney movies sparking a conversation between age groups. The original Hocus Pocus (1993) rates a 72% audience score, which contrasts greatly with the new sequel. The movie was shot in ways that seemed more geared towards a younger audience, leaving fans of the original Hocus Pocus disappointed.

Along with this lack of authenticity, the film lacked structure. It was generic in its opening conflict: Becca and Izzy’s friend, Cassie, is distant from their friend group because of her new boyfriend. In the end, they share a sappy apology scene and become friends again. This conflict in itself proved to become almost obsolete, as it is watered down by the main focus of the story, which is sending the Sanderson Sisters back to where they came from. The movie jumps back and forth between different characters, but fails to address their own backstory and lives. This results in a jumble of different conflicts and storylines, which contradicts the film style of the original Hocus Pocus: a straightforward and easy-to-consume piece of media.

Not only is the plot of Hocus Pocus 2 riddled with holes, but the characters themselves lack meaningful development. The mayor of Salem, meant to be the a descendant Reverend responsible for the witches’ shunned legacy, is played out as an oblivious quirky father. This adds an almost unnecessary and obnoxious sense of comedic relief to the entire film, as the comedy in itself is already portrayed by the Sanderson Sisters. Although cameos from the first movie were brought back to life, they were utilized in a way which felt like a marketing strategy, rather than an important piece of the story. Gilbert runs around with Billy Butcherson, a returning zombie-like character, to find ways to protect himself from the Sanderson magic, but the entirety of the conflict acts like a filler for the rest of the plot line. 

The film features a new cast of fresh teenagers, which wield talent, but miss the chemistry felt from the original Hocus Pocus cast. The sibling love and rivalry paired with budding young love is what makes the first film much more comforting and lighthearted. While friendship bonds are rebuilt in the second movie, the idea is generic and lacks creativity, taking away the nostalgic 90’s feel fans fell in love with. Although this sparks the argument that production companies must adapt to ever-changing societal and entertainment industries, it begs the question: did we really need a second Hocus Pocus?

Overall, the sequel in itself was unnecessary, messy, and a disappointment to enthusiasts of the original film. Marketing strategies were taken too far and ideas were stretched thin. However, after the credits have rolled, there is a peek into what critics believe is a hint towards a third part. Will the Sanderson Legacy continue even after their suggested disappearance? Or is it all just a bunch of hocus pocus?