Oh look. Another mediocre sequel. Makes me sick!
This is an exciting review for me to write. Not only am I a HUGE fan of the original Hocus Pocus (1993) – I mean, who isn’t? – but that movie was also the VERY FIRST Wayback I ever posted on Luke’s Living Room! By the way, check out that review, here. It has since become the most viewed post on my blog and I cant’t believe that here I am, four years later, reviewing the long-awaited sequel! As with most sequels released decades after the original, I was expecting Hocus Pocus 2 (2022) to more or less be a rehash of the original. The same types of characters, the same gags, maybe even the same scenes. While I was relieved to discover that this movie has more than a few (magic) tricks up its sleeve to differentiate it from the first one, it lacks the same charm and wit that put us under the Sanderson Sister’s spell in the first place. This movie as a whole was fine but ultimately I found it to be disappointing which did not surprise me. Sisters…I suggest we form a calming circle.
Hocus Pocus 2 follows Becca and Izzy, two teenage girls living in Salem who accidentally bring the Sanderson Sisters back to life on Halloween night. The sisters, a malicious trio of child-hungry witches, wreak havoc on the town as they set out to cast a spell to make them all-powerful.
In all honesty, it was hard for me to watch this movie without being too jaded or cynical. Partly because of my all-consuming love for the original Hocus Pocus and partly because I have little to no faith in these kind of “we waited way too long” sequels. Or remakes. Especially from Disney. Let’s just say that I’m never going to watch The Lion King (2019) when the original movie is so much better and they’re basically the same thing. By the way, check out my reviews for the remake and the original, here and here. Credit where credit is due, at least Hocus Pocus 2 isn’t an EXACT remake of the original beat for beat, which I’m sure Disney easily could have done with an entirely new cast. Kudos to them for having the brains to keep in tact the best part of the original, the three witches.
OH. MY. GOOD. GOD. It cannot be stated enough how fucking flawlessly Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy slip back into these iconic roles. They possess all the same charm, energy and familiarity with their characters as the first time around It’s as if this movie were filmed in 1995! Everything about their performances are as fun and lively as the first time around, proving that there is simply no replacing or diminishing the appeal of the Sanderson Sisters. Of all the worries I had about Hocus Pocus 2 the performances by Midler, Parker and Najimy were never in question. These are three actresses who know how to bring the camp and humour to every scene they’re in, reminding us why we watch their iconic performances every Halloween. I did wonder why their obvious aging was never addressed (literally just give us a magical explanation) and was confused when they return and IMMEDIATELY jump into an unprompted Elton John musical number when this movie is not a musical. Thank God these three are so charismatic and have a great chemistry together because the writing in Hocus Pocus 2, specifically the jokes and dialogue, are not great at all.
The witches are just as spectacular as expected and if they were characters introduced in a brand new movie, perhaps I would have liked Hocus Pocus 2 much more. But knowing how exceptional the original is and how much better it utilizes the star’s talents, it makes Hocus Pocus 2 feel hollow. And not at at all memorable or unique. When the witches aren’t around, Hocus Pocus 2 feels like a movie made by fans for YouTube. When the witches aren’t on screen (and always absolutely killing it) than the movie becomes pretty mediocre and loses any semblance of fun. Even worse, it often feels like it’s spinning its wheels, padding the runtime to reach the egregious hour and 45 minute runtime. We could have gotten rid of the new character Gilbert as soon as his reason for being in the movie was revealed and dead Lord, the character of Mike could have been cut completely. He was hands down the worst addition to the franchise. Not only was his character pointless and annoying, he was blatantly stupid. Like, early 2000’s sitcom level stupid. Sigh…I miss Binx!
I would have even preferred if one of the kids from the original movie had showed up to save us from the mediocrity. The trio of actresses playing the new kids in Hocus Pocus 2 are fine but there isn’t a single thing about any of them or their performances that will endear you to their characters. Simply put, they’re lacking any of the charm, spirit or fun that the kids in the first movie possessed. They’re perfectly capable young actresses but every time they showed up I was just like, “this is time spent where I could be watching the Sanderson Sisters. Get back to the witches already!” Ugh, I did not give one flying fart about any of the high school drama surrounding Becca and Izzy. Their scenes slow the whole movie down. Really, the girls should have just accidentally summoned the witches and then immediately disappeared so we could spend the rest of the movie being entertained by the Sanderson Sisters. Hello, that’s why we’re watching this movie in the first place!
Although speaking of young actresses, the three girls who play young versions of the Sanderson Sisters were absolutely amazing! They clearly studied the characters very closely and as a result deliver performances that can only be defined as scene-stealing. I was so impressed by how they nailed each of their adult counterparts’ physical quirks and mannerisms. Honestly, I would have enjoyed this movie much more if Hocus Pocus 2 was just the original trio of witches going back in time and interacting with their younger selves. I can’t tell you how much fun that would have been! If I were Disney I would have offered Hocus Pocus director Kenny Ortega a blank cheque to lead this sequel. He deserves it after everything he’s given them!
Overall I had a problem with the choices made in Hocus Pocus 2. Take the scene with the Sanderson Sisters performing “One Way or Another” for example. Obviously the witches need to sing again (no complaint here) and they do a good job making the Blondie song appropriately spooky, but in the original movie they were already listening to “I Put a Spell On You” at the Halloween party. That’s what inspires them to sing and cast their spell in one of the movie’s most beloved scenes. But this time around Winifred, Sarah and Mary just start singing out of nowhere. Again! Unlike Hocus Pocus there is no organic flow in Hocus Pocus 2 at all. Here’s a bigger question I had though:
WHY IS THERE A SCENE OF TWO GUYS WATCHING THE ACTUAL ORIGINAL MOVIE ON TV? They’re watching a movie of something that really happened? HOW?! WHY?! Who was filming that? How are they watching a movie of the past? Why was this included? MAKE IT MAKE SENSE!
Worst of all though, I really disliked the ending of this movie. Like most of the sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes Disney has released these days, the ending to Hocus Pocus 2 is both anti-climactic and overly sentimental. We love the Sanderson Sisters but the reason we love these bad ass witches is because they’re so deliciously wicked! An extra layer of mushiness is not needed. Can’t we just let villains be evil?
I’ve heard people say that Hocus Pocus 2 is even better than the original. Umm, no. I could not disagree more. The disrespect! Y’know how bad Netflix movies feel like made-for-TV movies? Like, Hallmark or Lifetime? Well, this is the first Disney+ original that feels like a made-for-TV movie which is to say, a decline in quality for the streamer. I don’t feel the need to ever watch Hocus Pocus 2 again. Meanwhile, I just watched the original on Monday and could watch it again tomorrow without any complaint at all. Sadly, this much-anticipated sequel isn’t going to put a spell on you.
Have you seen Hocus Pocus 2? Are you a fan of the original movie?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!