The Sanderson Sisters Bring Back Their Kooky Charm In ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ – Review
In the ’90s, the Sanderson Sisters were witches brought back to life by a virgin lighting the black flame candle, causing chaos and mayhem all over Salem on Halloween night. However, their plans were foiled by three children on that day. Now, three decades later, the witches are back to run “amuck, amuck, amuck” through Salem in Hocus Pocus 2. What was once a long time coming is now a reality for diehard fans of the Halloween classic Hocus Pocus.
Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker return as Winifred, Mary, and Sarah Sanderson to give out ghoulish fabulousness in this Disney+ original. Returner Doug Jones and newcomers Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, Lilia Buckingham, Tony Hale, Sam Richardson, and Hannah Waddingham round out the cast for a film that strives to bring back the kooky and campy flair of its predecessor.
Salem teens Becca (Peak), Izzy (Escobedo), and Cassie (Buckingham) love magic. Visiting Gilbert’s magic shop is a pastime for the trinity, who also have a yearly tradition of reciting spells together on Halloween—which also happens to be Becca’s birthday. But with Cassie distancing herself from her friends and choosing to no longer partake in the annual tradition, Becca and Izzy are forced to do it alone. However, when they do it this time, they bring back the fearsome Sanderson Sisters.
Like no time has passed at all, the witchy trio are back to their usual antics—to find children to eat in order to remain powerful and youthful. Now, the three teens must put an end to the Sanderson Sisters’ malevolent efforts and save Salem once again.
When the O.G. Hocus Pocus came out, it wasn’t a success. Actually, it was nowhere near the status that it holds now as a festive Disney classic. But thanks to annual showings of the film, Hocus Pocus gained a cult following. Hocus Pocus 2 presents the opportunity to bring back the sleeper hit magic from the first film and place it front and center in the sequel. For the most part, it does that through pure nostalgia alone. Various references to the first film, such as an appearance from a Thackery Binx-like black cat, the return of good zombie Billy Butcherson (Jones), and the return of the Sanderson Sisters’ home, which is now the Olde Salem Magic Shoppe, all play a part in this.
Older Hocus Pocus fans will surely appreciate this, as this brings audiences to a time when original Disney channel movies reigned supreme. But what might be a difficult pill to swallow is that some of the film’s CGI also reminds you of a time when Disney channel movies reigned supreme. While power effects are handled well, different scenes that require a green screen feel dated. But depending on how you view it, it also adds to the movie’s charm.
Another great component is the chemistry between the Midler, Najimy and Parker as the Sanderson Sisters. Their banter keeps the film lively, and their antics have been upgraded into 2022, with the witches confronted with beauty products, automatic doors, intense fluorescent lighting, and Roombas. All of which are a far cry from 1693 Salem. But the Sanderson Sisters aren’t the only ones to get an upgrade. The film’s messaging of women’s empowerment separates the movie from its predecessor and places women in community over opposition at the forefront.
This is further explored through Becca, Izzy, and Cassie, but also through the teenage versions of the Sanderson Sisters in a flashback. Which, by the way, a special shoutout goes to actors Taylor Paige Henderson, Nina Kitchen, and Juju Journey Brener, who also play teenage versions of the infamous trio, and they perfectly embody their mannerisms.
Sam Richardson and Hannah Waddingham are two more bright spots in this sequel as new characters Gilbert and Mother Witch. Unfortunately, Waddingham is completely underused, albeit a solid scene stealer within the film. Still, both provide a meaningful and charming addition to this sequel.
To be honest, the nostalgia of the first film drives this sequel, but that’s not a bad thing. Hocus Pocus 2 is more of a feel-good festive watch than Hocus Pocus and is sure to entertain plenty of viewers this spooky season. While it’s far from perfect, so was its predecessor. And we all know how that turned out.
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