“Hocus Pocus 2”: The Witches Are Back!


Courtesy of Disney+

The witches are back in this cult film sequel, released exclusively on Disney Plus.

  There are many films that are part of people’s Holiday traditions. Lots of people like to rewatch “Groundhog Day” on groundhog day, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” on Thanksgiving, and the many classic Christmas movies that are played every year. In terms of holidays with classic movies, Halloween is no exception, and aside from “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown,” there is arguably no film that embodies the spirit of the holiday more than “Hocus Pocus.” Following a comedic trio of villainous witches who are resurrected on Halloween night, the film was released by Walt Disney Pictures in 1993, but did very poorly upon release and lost Disney around $16.5 million during its initial run (though this was likely due to the fact that it was a Halloween-themed movie released in July, oddly enough). Like many other films of its kind, however, “Hocus Pocus” was rediscovered by audiences through repeated airings on TV, particularly annual airings on Disney Channel and Freeform throughout October. This helped the film gain a large cult following, increasing in popularity as it was played year after year. Now, “Hocus Pocus”’s cult status has garnered a sequel. But was the soul of the original able to transfer over?

   “Hocus Pocus 2” was initially released on Disney Plus on September 30. Taking place 29 years after the original, “Hocus Pocus 2” sees the Sanderson sisters: Winifred, Sarah, and Mary (played once again by Bette Milder, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy respectively), unwittingly unleashed upon Salem Massachusetts once again by two magic-obsessed girls, Becca and Izzy (played by Whitney Peak and Belissa Escobedo). In true Sanderson sister fashion they then run amok through town, singing musical numbers and slinging magic spells as they attempt to find some way to remain in the world of the living before the night ends.

   “Hocus Pocus 2” is one of those perfect nostalgia movies. There are numerous callbacks and references to the original film, clearly showing that those making this sequel had a lot of love for it. This is most obvious in the Sanderson sisters, who are once again the highlight. Though they have clearly aged since 1993 (something fairly well covered by makeup), Milder, Parker, and Najimy’s acting chops have not decreased one bit. Their impeccable comedic timing, physical acting, and perfect chemistry shine through once again, as if they, like their characters, had been sealed away since 1993. This is not to say that any of the new that the films adds is bad either. Each of the new actors does an excellent job, with particular props going to Sam Richardson’s performance as Gilbert, the salesman who converted the Sanderson sister’s home into a magic shop, and Tony Hale’s dual role as Mayor Jefry Traske and his descendent Reverend Traske. 

   If there is one thing I had to criticize about the film, however, it would be that the plot feels rather weak in some areas. Though the personal story of Becca, Izzy, and their estranged friend Cassie is certainly compelling, it takes a backseat for most of the film and feels rather unemphasized compared to other aspects, really only factoring into the beginning and end. The Sanderson sister’s hijinks certainly make up for it, but I found myself wishing that at times it could have been explored just a bit more.

   When talking about sequels that live up to the reputation of the originals, “Hocus Pocus 2” can certainly be counted among them. The film does an excellent job recapturing pretty much everything that made its predecessor so great, while also being able to stand on its own as an entertaining, spooky time. 

“Hocus Pocus 2” is currently available for streaming on Disney Plus.