Hocus Pocus 2 Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Since having been defeated by Max & his sister, Salem enjoyed its freedom from Winifred, Mary & Sarah. The three venture on a quest for revenge after being brought back by accident!
Genre: Comedy / Fantasy
Director: Anne Fletcher
Cast: Bette Midler, Kathy Najimi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, Lilia Buckingham, Sam Richardson, Tony Hale & Doug Jones.
Run Time: 103 min.
US Release: 30 September 2022 (Disney+)
UK Release: 30 September 2022 (Disney+)
German Release: 30 September 2022 (Disney+)
It’s Halloween season everybody, so I will focus this month on horror movies and flicks that invoke the holiday spirit! Up first, Disney’s family-friendly bewitched sequel, to the 1993 Hocus Pocus, which has been released on their streaming platforming. I honestly wasn’t the biggest fan of the first one. Granted, I did watch it the first time in my early twenties. Nevertheless, even back then it was incredibly cheesy and silly, with bad dialogues and subpar effects. Why a sequel needed to be made is beyond me, yet here we are… so jump on to your brooms and fly with me through my review for Hocus Pocus 2…
Twenty-nine years after Max defeated the Sanderson Sisters, two young women are tricked into summoning them back again, to modern-day Salem. Together with their friend Cassie, the three teenagers must find a way to stop the child-hungry witches from wreaking havoc on their town.
The biggest surprise is that the screenplay was better written than the original one from 1993. The goofiness is reduced, while the overall tone is more serious, including a greater threat level. One of the significant plus points, though, is that the witch sisters weren’t released by a stupid teenager, who defiled any warning signs. Finally, the message of sharing power and respecting one's best friends or family was a nice touch.
That being said, there are more than just a couple of issues plot-wise. For one, this could have been a proper family-friendly horror, similar to the Goosebumps TV series. Disney missed an opportunity here, by going the safe route and completely watering down the frights to a typical feel-good Disney film. Then there is the motivation of a side character, who tricked the teenagers into freeing the Salem sisters again, which is literally paper-thin and simply included to have a connection to the original flick. While we are on the subject, Winifred’s drive for revenge also feels unwarranted, rather like a last-minute idea.
Further, there are unnecessary musical segments, especially the one at the beginning! Simple nostalgia bait that is supposed to be reminiscent of that Halloween party in the first picture, where they needed to sing, out of necessity to keep up their appearances of belonging to a Halloween show. At some point, there is even a short meta-reference, where a couple is watching the ‘93 Hocus Pocus on television, an unnecessary reference! Last but not least, the final confrontation is resolved way too fast!
The dialogues are simple, nothing out of the ordinary. The jokes are childish, with fifty-per cent falling flat. The script at times tries too hard to be funny.
Bette Midler, Kathy Najimi and Sarah Jessica Parker managed to easily fall back into their old roles after so many years, making it incredibly entertaining to see the Sanderson Sisters back in action. The make-up department also did a great job at replicating their look. The characters themselves, on the other hand, have very weak motivations. Disney is on a strange path, where they need to serve every villain an arc of redemption, by giving them a background story. It did NOT work with Cruella and it is not working here!
Whitney Peak is definitely the highlight of this movie! She stole every scene she was in giving an amazing rendition of Becca, an aspiring witch. She sold periods of concern for her friends, just like more serious segments during high-school drama moments, yet never over-acted like others would have. Sadly, her character never obtained a background narrative where her heritage is explored. Thus we are left with an amazing performance, but a weak character we know nothing about. Also, her arc is easily foreshadowed.
Belissa Escobedo plays Izzy, the token side-kick every strong lead needs. Best friend of Becca, yet with no real redeemable talent and mostly the silly one, for comedic relief. Just as the main persona, audiences know nothing about Izzy. A real shame, as we are left with a bunch of one-dimensional side characters.
Sam Richardson portrays the adult version of Gilbert, a child that was supposedly in Hocus Pocus, witnessing the events that transpired at the cemetery. His character was foreseeable from the beginning, with no real learning curve at the end. Finally, we have Doug Jones who reprised his role as the friendly zombie Billy Butcherson, however, his character was completely wasted, with a limited amount of screen-time.
From a cinematographic perspective, Disney improved on their made-for-TV original with a sharper picture! This is a much better-crafted film quality-wise, with director of photography Elliot Davis, employing solid wide shots, more detailed angles, as well as great lighting plus rich colours. Sadly, the editing can’t help the plot to pick up in speed either. The special effects, while nothing out of the ordinary, are good enough, though, what really excels are make-up and costume design!
John Debney returned as composer for this sequel, although apart from two new songs the soundtrack was kept pretty much the same. It is still kitsch, however, the use of Blondie’s “One Way or Another” cheapened the whole score to another level.
Verdict: Smaller children will surely enjoy it, but parents will roll their eyes during the musical segments, the silly carnival scenes, as well as, the incredibly rushed resolution at the end. Audiences were robbed of a climatic thor-act! While the plot improves some aspects of the original, it also struggles to find a reason to exist. The jokes aren’t really funny half the time and it still feels like a diminished version, of a potentially decent child-friendly spooky story, with witches. Granted, it does have a nice message about the importance of sisterhood, which can be expanded to any form of sibling structure or friendship. The original trio of Midler, Najimi and Parker do a fine job reverting to their roles, scene stealer, nonetheless, is Whitney Peak - even if her character arc is totally predictable. The cinematography is good but the music is tacky. Hocus Pocus 2 does not deserve more than a 5.0 out of 10.
So, have you seen this sequel to the beloved TV feature of 1993? Leave a comment below to let me know & as always, thank you very much for reading!