Arts & Entertainment, Film and TV

Just a bunch of hocus pocus: Another unnecessary sequel

Twenty-nine years after the release of the Disney film Hocus Pocus, the Sanderson sisters are stirring up trouble once more. The first film follows teenager Max (Omri Katz) in the town of Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween. While visiting the former cottage of the long-dead Sanderson witches, Max lights a candle and accidentally resurrects them. Along with his sister Dani (Thora Birch) and crush Allison (Vinessa Shaw), Max spends the following hour of the movie trying to vanquish the sisters once and for all. Like many of its films in the last decade, the House of Mouse has chosen to resurrect the cult classic in the form of a sequel. Much like the Sanderson sisters, however, the franchise should have stayed dead. 

The sequel brings us back to Salem, the town infamous for its grisly witch trials in the late 17th century, following spunky teen Becca (Whitney Peak), a magic-obsessed girl with a Halloween birthday. The only thing more unrealistic than the magic in this movie is Becca’s endless supply of convenient plot devices. She receives all the items that she needs to take on the witches in the first act of the film, complete with direct dialogue and intense stares from Gilbert (Sam Richardson), the owner of a local magic shop, about how useful these objects might be in oddly specific situations. 

Hocus Pocus 2 encourages its audience to be sympathetic towards the Sanderson sisters given the sexism they faced as young women. But it’s difficult to ignore how the trio made a habit of consuming the souls of innocent children. Even with its comedic overtones, Winifred’s attempts at consuming Dani’s soul in the first film always felt a bit dark, and it didn’t feel any better the second time around. The film begs the question of whether a child-based diet can negatively influence one’s mental development; the sisters don’t seem to have the common sense or the deductive reasoning beyond that of a five-year-old.  

Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy’s performances were about as strong as the mediocre script allows. In the first film, Bette Midler, in particular, gave the role her absolute all. Her rendition of I Put a Spell On You by Jalacy “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins is a musical performance recognizable to even people that have never seen the first film. There is only so much that established actresses can do while acting like immortal witches behaving like kindergartners visiting Toys “R” Us for the first time. While there is a certain appeal to picking up a story 30 years later, it does make one wonder what mountain of blackmail Disney had on these poor actresses to drag them into this CGI-ridden mess. 

In spite of Hocus Pocus 2’s flaws, the movie is not without its redeeming qualities. It is complete with two wonderful musical numbers, including an inspiring rendition of the Blondie ‘70s classic “One Way or Another.” Of course, Becca’s friend Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) questioned why they were breaking into song, joining Flynn Rider as one of the few Disney characters to do so. It is always refreshing to see a character break the fourth wall—given that, in reality, people don’t usually break into song when they successfully make a bowl of cereal. The costume designer mercifully chose outfits for the teens that a real-life high schooler might actually be seen in. The Sanderson sisters’ witchy wardrobe maintained their original appearance, and for good reason—why mess with perfection?

Hocus Pocus 2 does try its best to appeal to fans of the original movie and new viewers alike. However, many of its jokes fall flat and the poor attempts at social commentary are quickly overshadowed by the witches’ evil intentions. It was 103 minutes of my life that I am never going to get back, but it may be worth a watch for those seeking some good old-fashioned nostalgia. Although I should have known better than to expect great things from a straight-to-Disney+ sequel, the original Hocus Pocus gave me high hopes. That, or the Sanderson sisters really did put a spell on me.

Hocus Pocus 2 is currently streaming on Disney+.

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