Hocus Pocus 2: A Review

Hold onto your witch hats and brooms! The Sanderson Sisters are back in a magical new sequel to the wicked 1993 film Hocus Pocus. Bette Milder, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy donned their robes and outrageous hairdos and encounter new rivals to try and become all powerful and live past sunrise. But was their return all that fruitful? And was the addition of new members to the story, whether from the past or present, necessary to produce a good film? 

The film starts out in the early 1600s, the height of the Puritan Age in New England, specifically in Salem. Here, we meet young Winifred, Mary, and Sarah Sanderson, who seem to live by themselves in the town of Salem. After Winnie refuses to marry at the request of the town’s revered, Reverend Traske, the sisters are promptly banished from Salem; they flee to the Forbidden Wood, where they come across Mother Witch (Hannah Waddingham), who introduces them to Book, a stubborn spell book that will eventually become Winnie’s good companion. This never-before-seen flashback into the sister’s childhood was interesting because it reveals how exactly they got their powers, as well as showing that their cruel, sassy nature was not a result of the powers; instead, their powers only helped to bring these qualities out more. I personally thought the introduction of Mother Witch was random, and I also wondered why she was “the only witch left.” Surely, there had to be other people who practiced witchcraft, if not in secret. I would have liked to see more of the sisters’ lives as they were learning to become witches instead of just one scene where they magically set the Reverend’s house aflame. 

After the flashback, the film jumps straight to present day Salem, introducing the main protagonists: Becca (Whitney Peake) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), two sixteen-year-old magic enthusiasts, who are looking forward to celebrating Halloween with their yearly candle ritual in the forest (which just so happens to be the Forbidden Wood); however, their other friend Cassie Traske (Lilia Buckingham), who usually partakes in the festivities, has other plans with her boyfriend Mike (Froy Gutierrez). 

Right off the bat, I loved that there was diversity within the friend group, and I do like that Disney has been gearing towards having a wide variety of people being featured in the spotlight. The conflict between the girls ends up being solved later, but I feel like there could have been more about the girls’ past rituals to really highlight the gravity of  Cassie missing one. 

Becca and Izzy feel abandoned by Cassie, but they continue with their normal ritual anyway. They stop by at Salem’s local magic shop and receive a complimentary candle for their ritual from the store owner, Gilbert (Sam Richardson). They head for the forest, and as soon as the candle is lit, the cameras are filled with action as the Sanderson sisters rise from the dead for the first time since ’93. There is one interesting thing about this movie compared to the original: There are musical numbers, one of them being right after the sisters are resurrected, and another when Winnie possesses a whole crowd of people who try to find Mayor Traske (Tony Hale), who is Cassie’s father, as well as a direct descendant of the Reverend Traske. I was not a huge fan of this. It did set the sequel apart from the original; however, it was too much of a contrast. 

After Becca and Izzy convince the Sanderson Sisters that they mean no harm and will help them, they uncover the sisters’ newest plot: to become the most powerful witches on the face of the earth, and outlive the scorching sunrise awaiting them by casting the most powerful spell: Magicae Maxima. To cast a spell this powerful, they will need certain things; the two most outstanding ingredients, though, are the head of a lover and a drop of blood from the enemy. These ingredients segue perfectly into finding Billy (Doug Jones), the talking, friendly zombie, who was Winnie’s apparent lover (that theory is debunked at the end of the film by Billy himself); and Mayor Traske, the closest blood relative to their enemy. One thing that I was very disappointed about was that Thackery Binx—the boy turned into a cat and doomed to live forever in that form—was not the cat who appeared in Hocus Pocus 2! Instead, the cat’s name is Cobweb, and unlike Thackery, he does not speak. Also, I was very disappointed to find that the only actors that returned from the original film were Bette Milder, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, and Doug Jones; it would have been awesome to see Omri Katz, Thora Birch, and Vinessa Shaw make a comeback as Max, Dani, and Allison, respectively. 

Throughout the film, there were very funny moments. One of my favorites is when Mary finds two robot vacuums and uses them for brooms after leaving Walgreens; it’s a common play with the generational gap of technology, especially for someone who’s more than 400 years old. I thought that it was funny that Disney brought the protective power of salt from witchcraft to life in this movie, as salt is used several times by Becca and Izzy against the sisters. Personally, I think Mary is the best sister because she is so effortlessly funny. Eventually, when the sisters cast Magicae Maxima, and they become all powerful, Mary brings out the cowboy in her and shoots rays of magic into the air from her finger guns. That was a classic play on a common expression. I thought Billy was great, if not better, this time around: Being able to hear him talk more and interact with Gilbert really showcased a newer, more humorous side to his personality. 

Eventually, the sisters cast the all-powerful spell, but not without learning a few things. The spell came with a price, and for Winnie, that meant trading the thing she loved most—her sisters—for the power of the spell. Desperate to get her sisters back after they faded away to sparkles and dust (a rather interesting way to show death I thought), she turns to Becca, Izzy, and Cassie to help. Becca had recently discovered that she too has magical abilities, so the three team up and use her power to reunite Winnie with her sisters in death. Whether that death is permanent, though, remains to be seen (I doubt they would make a third movie, but, hey, you never know!)

Overall Rating: 6.5/10