Hocus Pocus 2 review: Soft sequel weighed down by nostalgia

The cast of Hocus Pocus 2Disney+

Hocus Pocus 2 brings back a lot of fun and iconic moments from the original, but it lacks what made the first one a cult classic.

We’re back, witches!

After almost three decades, the Sanderson Sisters have returned to enact their revenge on Salem, with a new group of teenagers struggling to stay alive and stop them.

The first Hocus Pocus has obviously become a nostalgic cult classic, but how does the Disney+ sequel fare? Let us explain, but first, a warning: potential spoilers ahead…

The Sanderson Sisters are just as entertaining as ever

Let’s first talk about the best thing in the movie, the sisters themselves. Namely, the performances of Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker, and not just the fun music performances that are thrown in.

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The group is as electric as ever, even when working with less-than-stellar dialogue. For example, there’s a Walgreens sequence that feels like little more than a shameless product tie-in, but the sisters still sell every moment they’re in there. However, this sequence shows the time difference between the original film and now, along with a fun gag involving Roombas.

The movie also takes a meta approach, as the events of the first film, along with the legend of the sisters, are somehow known throughout the town. We even see multiple people dressed up as the sisters for Halloween (including some notable RuPaul’s Drag Race queens). This allows more jokes and Sanderson fun, but it does also hurt your brain when you try to think about how that would work.

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Hocus Pocus 2 lacks any true dark magic

One main problem however when it comes to the witches is that they aren’t evil anymore. True, they’re still the antagonists, and the film tries to raise the stakes by having them plan revenge on the whole of Salem, but they lack the bite they had in the original, which can be said for the film as a whole. Where’s the child-killing, or the cat getting run over and re-inflating itself? People are cursed to dance, yes, but just until they find someone, not until they die.

The film also takes the approach that the clunky The Craft reboot did, in that it portrays the witches not as power-hungry villains, but misunderstood girlbosses, which it does with a somewhat interesting but ultimately pointless backstory for the Sisters.

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Yes, witchcraft has always been something worth feminist discussion, but I don’t think feminists are really looking to compare Hocus Pocus with Simone de Beauvoir. Especially when this backstory appears to weaken the witches, softening them as a whole and making them appear more nurturing figures by the ending. The final battle ends so saccharinely that it feels more like a Disney animated classic than a cult classic.

Hocus Pocus 2 review score: 5/10

Is it as good as the original? No, not really. Alas, nostalgia is always a double-edged sword. It leaves you wanting more, but it usually means having to watch something nowhere near as good as the original.

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The sequel tries to add some new elements that can be entertaining at times. The side characters can be fun (it’s great to see Doug Jones back as Billy, especially with his mouth now un-stitched), and the film attempts to give the main trio of teenagers (Whitney Peak, Lilia Buckingham, and Belissa Escobedo) more of an emotional arc than the original, rather than just oddly focusing on virgin jokes.

But overall, the film feels weighed down by its own nostalgia. Thus, the dialogue is filled with exposition and call-backs, the attempts to recapture iconic moments feels forced, and the film appears stuck between two times periods, three if you include the 1600s.

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Ultimately, while audiences may enjoy viewing Hocus Pocus 2 this Halloween, come next year they will likely only be watching the original.

Hocus Pocus 2 is currently available to stream on Disney+