Hocus Pocus 2 News: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy all return to their respective roles from the original 1993 picture about a group of adolescents who unintentionally reawaken a formidable coven of witches.
The Sanderson sisters, an unpleasant sibling trio, captivated Disney viewers almost three decades ago. In any case, they made an effort.
Hocus Pocus, directed by Kenny Ortega, may have been received with negative reviews and poor box office returns upon its first release, but the quirky Halloween comedy has since garnered a dedicated fan base. Years after its first release, while channel surfing with my younger sisters, we stumbled onto the film. We like the strange, off-kilter vibe it gave off. From then on, it was a Halloween must-do to see Winnie (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary (Kathy Najimy) chase kids through Salem, Massachusetts.
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Hocus Pocus 2, Disney’s much-awaited sequel to the first film, respects the original while yet not quite moving beyond it. The live-action comedy picture, directed by Anne Fletcher, shows signs of a conflict between satisfying the film’s core audience and appealing to new viewers. Typical of modern Disney productions, the film employs the kind of slick CGI presentation that recycles story elements, revisits the past, and nods to the greater fanbase. The end product is light yet enjoyable piece of media.
Most intriguing about Hocus Pocus 2 is its lead trio: Midler, Parker, and Najimy all return to their parts with the same vivacious kookiness that made the first film so successful. There is no doubt that they are enjoying themselves.
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Hocus Pocus 2: It all starts with a flashback at the beginning of the film. Winifred Sanderson (Taylor Henderson) has just reached 16, the age at which young women under colonial patriarchy find out whether they are witches and, if they are, are expected to marry. Neither of these things is known to Winnie, and she is not pleased with the second. After a violent outburst, she bursts into the home she shares with her sisters Sarah (Juju Journey Brener) and Mary (Sarah Elizabeth Thomas) (Nina Kitchen). There are glimmers of the three women’s adult personalities throughout this flashback, such as Winnie’s bluster, Sarah’s submissiveness, and Mary’s biting asides, that prevent it from being entirely forgettable.
Hocus Pocus 2: Since the local pastor (Tony Hale) has requested Winnie (Austin J. Ryan) to marry someone other than Billy Butcherson, Sarah and Mary attempt to soothe her with praises and presents. They are forced to flee from Reverend Traske and the rest of Salem before they can make any real progress. The sisters find themselves in the middle of the forest, where they meet a witch who helps them realize that they, too, are supernatural. In retrospect, it’s easy to see how crucial the Sanderson sisters’ backstory is, but it’s also impossible not to roll your eyes at the film’s effort to give the trio’s cruelty a pseudo-feminist logic, much as Cruella did with its heroine.
Moving ahead to the current day, we know through Hocus Pocus 2 that the Sandersons haven’t been seen for years. Again, we find ourselves celebrating Halloween. Their loss of three children 29 years ago is now part of local legend. After Cassie (Lilia Buckingham) found a man, Becca (Whitney Peak), Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham) found their relationship to be strained (Froy Gutierrez).
Despite Becca’s best intentions, she learned that her best friend Cassie was planning a Halloween party on the same night as Becca’s 16th birthday, so she decided to celebrate without her. The three friends had a longstanding history of gathering in their secret forest retreat to play with spells and charms. It’s not the case anymore.
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Hocus Pocus 2: Becca and Izzy have their own ideas while the other three have a difficult time. Their first stop is at a magic store owned by Gilbert (Sam Richardson), a geeky magician who is enamored with the Sanderson sisters for reasons I won’t divulge. He makes it his mission to tell the children of Salem fascinating tales about his experiences. Gilbert sends Becca an enchanted candle as a present but doesn’t notify the other people in the room that it has magical properties. Like the original Hocus Pocus 2 witches, Becca and Izzy bring back the spirits of the witches when they light the candle at their secret location under the light of the full moon.
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The Sandersons’ arrival, which features a boisterous sequence of the earth cracking, the moon fading, lightning crackling, and, of course, a song and dance, helps lighten the mood of Hocus Pocus 2 quite a little. The movie now acts like the big deal that it is. In their second coming, Winnie, Sarah, and Mary want to become immortal and supreme above all other witches. This last desire is novel; maybe the 30 years of slumber have made the classic movie villain’s aim of global dominance more appealing.
Becca and Izzy bring their sisters to Walgreens, where they are sold retinol and other anti-aging products in an effort to divert their attention from the fact that their souls are being devoured. One of the film’s most hilarious scenes takes place in the skincare section when the Sanderson sisters indulge in an anti-aging elixir-fueled face mask-eating contest. They also meet a bunch of admirers who want to take a photo with them, teaching the centuries-old witches all about the wonders of Instagram editing software.
The on-screen chemistry between Midler, Parker, and Najimy hasn’t altered much over the years, making for a riveting viewing experience. Their sections, when it seems like both the actors and the audience are captivated, are the most consistently entertaining parts in Hocus Pocus 2. On Halloween night, the sisters use their trademark sharp tongues and quick wit to make jokes about the peculiarities of modern life as they slither and snake their way around Salem. The film’s concern in mellowing them down hasn’t stopped them from craving evil and disliking kids, but it has lessened their edge.
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Aside from the Sanderson family dynamic, Hocus Pocus 2 has a harder time succeeding, albeit not for want of trying. Gilbert’s relationship with Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones) as an adult is both funny and heartwarming, demonstrating the film’s potential for freshness. However, the teen-witch storyline that the film uses is not easy to glam up, particularly considering how many such films and television shows there have been since Hocus Pocus 2(and its reboot).
Because Becca, Izzy, and Cassie’s relationship aren’t given nearly as much screen time as the others, it’s difficult to gather the same excitement for it. The Sanderson sisters are still the royal jewels, even as the other girls become increasingly central to the story.