In 1993 Disney released the original Hocus Pocus and the movie quickly became a Halloween classic. Disney has been playing the film since then every year on Disney Channel and now on Disney Plus where audiences can access it whenever they want. The film is certainly a classic, but even a classic might need an update once in a while. Disney is the master of remakes and legacy sequels, so when they announced that a new Hocus Pocus was being in production, it didn’t come as a surprise. This is the review for Hocus Pocus 2, a new sequel and possibly a new classic for Halloween.
Hocus Pocus 2 is directed by Anne Fletcher and stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Whitney Peak, Lilia Buckingham, Belissa Escobedo, Doug Jones, Sam Richardson, and Tony Hale. The film is a direct sequel to the original film from 1993 and sees the Sanderson sisters coming back one more time to eat children and cause evil in the city of Salem. However, this time they will be confronted by a new covenant of witches that will try to put an end to their evil plans.
When it comes to legacy sequels, the ones that are often considered good are the ones that managed to take the essence that made the original good and replicate it with a new coat of paint. Legacy sequels don’t have to be revolutionary, but they must take the story in a new direction while keeping the elements that people like from the original. Failing to achieve any of these goals will mostly result in a disaster, and in people hating the movie because it is not what they expected.
Hocus Pocus 2 manages to achieve both goals. It brings all the charm, comedy, and magic of the original while introducing a new set of characters that literally bring new life into the new franchise. Is this one of the best films of the year? Not really. But it doesn’t have to. Hocus Pocus 2 is good enough that it basically stands out from most major offers from all streaming services, but also doesn’t have aspirations to be better than that. The result is a movie that tries to be fun, and once it achieves that goal, it is happy with it.
Visually, the film harkens back to the original in ways that might feel cheap by today’s standards, but these ways are mostly intended because of the way it is presented. The visual effects, for example, have this cheap and old quality that actually makes the movie feel more connected to the original than anything else. The spells, the brooms, and even the way the witches fly through the sky, all feel old but correct in the context of the movie. It is not easy to pull off weird visual effects in the correct way.
Otherwise, the production values are quite good. Not as high as the Disney theatrical blockbusters, but indeed good enough that the movie feels like something worth watching for the season or outside of it. Most of all, the story and the characters bring a great fun factor that most people will be able to enjoy. Especially because you don’t need to have seen the original to enjoy this sequel. The movie does all the necessary work to keep you in the loop on what happened and why these witches are the way they are.
Actually, it comes as a surprise that the Sanderson witches are the main focus of the film. In the original, they had to share the focus with the teen protagonist, but here it is all about the Sandersons, and how could it not be? They are what people want to see, so why not give them to them? The new characters are all in supporting roles, and they all do an amazing job. They all have their own arcs and storylines, but they never pull the focus from our favorite witches.
Talking about the witches. The main trio slips quite easily into their roles, and the dynamic is as funny and fantastic as ever. Midler is, of course, the standout of the three, and it is just fascinating to look at her and see her chewing the scenery with gusto. These are all veteran actresses, and they really put their experience to good use. Tony Hale also stands out as possibly the funniest character in the film.
The cinematography by Elliot Davis really pulls things together. The score by John Debney, who returns to bring music to this Halloween film, is really excellent and makes you realize just how memorable the scores of movies from that period were. They just don’t make them like that anymore.
Hocus Pocus 2 is a remarkable legacy sequel. It manages to be a fun adventure in its own right and also be a love letter to the original. All the actors are doing their best effort, and it comes across as a movie that was made with love and not just as another cash-in. Hocus Pocus 2 will definitely not replace the original one, but it will make for a wonderful double feature.