“Magic has a way of uniting things that ought to be together.”
Familiar and sentimental, the long awaited Hocus Pocus 2 feels like a place revisited yet renovated for the already initiated, and is engaging enough to make new fans at the same time. Not much is different here and the script follows the 1993 outing beat for beat, but what I enjoyed most is how the film adopts modern sensibilities and completely changes the main theme of the story. The original feels dated by how much it’s driven by forced young romance, but this sequel is one that’s about family and friends and how the two are so intertwined, and those are feelings deeply ingrained within the devout fanbase. I thought the trailer looked as dreadful as most of Disney’s latest nostalgia trips; I’m happy to have been proven wrong.
While most of the film is structured identically to the original, Hocus Pocus 2 stands apart by introducing us to the Sanderson sisters as young women, castigated and thrown out of 17th century Salem, only finding solace in the dark depths of the forbidden forest. The entire point is to establish their bond, and this is before transitioning to modern day Salem, where their lore lingers and the events of the first film have – quite ironically – become an old wive’s tale. The film centers in on Becca (Whitney Peak), as it’s a full moon Halloween night and her 16th birthday to boot. She goes to that same forest with her friend Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) to honor their tradition since they were little, toting a picture of their now estranged friend Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), and playfully light a candle gifted by the local magic shop owner Gilbert (Sam Richardson). You can safely assume what comes next.
Directed by Anne Flectcher from a script by Jen D’Angelo, Hocus Pocus 2 is self aware enough to poke fun at itself, and the results lead to some genuine belly laughs in a film that’s much funnier than I anticipated. And while the writing is sharp, the comedy mostly seems to come from how game the original trio are returning to these now iconic roles, playing them just as we remember but in a new time and place. One might argue that this sequel is basically all reward and no risk as it basically copies and pastes the plot of the original with updated jokes and new characters, but it somehow still casts a powerful spell all its own. I’m not sure it’s as memorable as the first film, but this might actually be the better made picture of the two. There’s charm and magic here.
Hocus Pocus 2 doesn’t care about teenage flings or any of the other trappings which held the original back. This movie is about identity, friendship, and the actions we’re willing to take to be with our loved ones no matter the cost. The Sanderson sisters are evil witches who suck the life out of children, but we also see why they came to be that way, and how all they have is each other. We understand their mixed up logic. Refreshingly though, Hocus Pocus 2 creates a new coven born out of kindness and affection and smarts, showing us how strength is in numbers and that we’re better off when we work together. Not bad for a sequel nearly three decades in the making.
“A witch is nothing without her coven.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5