Hocus Pocus was underappreciated in its time. Released in 1993, the picture was a commercial failure at the box office and got terrible reviews. However, something interesting happened over the years. Repeat showings on the Disney Channel and ABC Family (now Freeform) ultimately refashioned the flop into a beloved classic with a dedicated audience.
I don’t hold the original dear. Why? Well, so full disclosure. I had never seen it until just last week. However, I was preparing to review Hocus Pocus 2. I figured I should be acquainted with the first film. Considering them both, they are equally lightweight and silly. Yet I’d give the sequel a slight edge.
The youthful supporting cast here surpasses that of its predecessor. In this story, a teen girl named Becca (Whitney Peak) inadvertently lights the Black Flame candle and brings the Sanderson sisters back, who are out for revenge. These are the witches played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. Their vicious personalities have mellowed with age. The opening intro shows that the sisters were misunderstood as children. Incidentally, Taylor Henderson is a standout as a younger version of Winifred, Bette Midler’s character. The witchy trio of Winnie, Sarah, and Mary are the only characters that return. Oops! Save for the notable exception of zombie Billy Butcherson. His storied history with the sisters comprises a minor plot point. Billy is delightfully portrayed by actor Doug Jones (Hellboy, The Shape of Water), who frequently appears in Guillermo del Toro’s movies.
Girl power reigns supreme in the follow-up. Becca has a quirky best friend named Izzy (Belissa Escobedo). The two have a tenuous relationship with former bestie Cassie (Lilia Buckingham). She has become a popular girl, much to their dismay. Cassie has a dim-witted boyfriend (Froy Gutierrez), but her loyalties still reside with her girls. The teens ultimately band together to stop the evil sisters. Lessons taught are that sisterhood is a powerful thing and that making fun of others for being different is not cool.
Despite sweeping cultural changes over the past 29 years, Hocus Pocus 2 is still a retread. There are some new jokes. Instead of a broom, Mary flies around on two Roombas under each foot. Those robotic vacuum cleaners will assist them later. The utter confusion the witches experience at Walgreens is the funniest scene. Like its forerunner, there are some musical numbers. I did appreciate a cleverly altered Elton John song, “The Witch Is Back.” This is a family film after all. Furthermore, when a group of children is told that a virgin must light the candle to summon the witches, a little boy — who looks to be about 5 — asks, “What is a virgin?” Fitting because none of the kids asked this question in the first installment.
This comedy is a pleasant diversion and manages to offer some improvements. For most people who watch this on Disney+, nostalgia will be a significant factor in their enjoyment. If you treasure the 90s flick, feel free to conjure up an extra star for my review.