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Movie Review: HOCUS POCUS 2

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Revisiting your childhood… is there anything more terrifying? The moment you see a work you loved again and realize you were ten years old. In fact, it’s not just scary, it’s disappointing. So with Hollywood’s propensity to revisit, but not necessarily revel in nostalgia, if you’re past childhood, chances are Hollywood has already touched on something important to you. When Disney announced a sequel to Hocus Pocus, I was already nervous. Does this classic Halloween movie of yore really need a sequel? How would that end up appearing on screen? Well, yours truly has seen it. Read on, kids.

Hocus Pocus 2 returns to the story of the Sanderson Sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy) 29 years after the events of the first film. This time around, the virgins who light the black-flame candle are two teenage girls with “witchy” tendencies (Whitney Peak and Becca Escobedo). Will they be able to take down the witches before they wreak havoc on Salem on Halloween? The witches are back, baby.

Doug Jones, Tony Hale, Sam Richardson and Froy Gutierrez co-star in Hocus Pocus 2. Anne Fletcher is directing the film from a script by Jen D’Angelo.

I am, admittedly, a millennial senior. I was 7 when the first movie came out. Like many of my generation, Hocus Pocus is a touch of nostalgia for me, and it’s a film that I revisit regularly. So the first thought I had when Disney announced this remake was, “Is this really necessary?” Most of us dread the moment when we watch our childhood turn into a mundane “straight-to-video” sequel.

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Luckily, director Anne Fletcher finds the right chemistry with her cast. The returning originals (and many of them have) don’t miss a beat. Best of all, the new cast joining the fold blends in smoothly. This is particularly the case with Peak and the delicious Escobedo. Tony Hale, I’m sure many will agree, is excellent at everything he does. Meanwhile, Sam Richardson fills a role I didn’t know I wanted to see.

Of course, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t join the chorus of voices calling out Doug Jones for another amazing performance. A character actor of the most versatile variety, Jones excels at playing the creatures that terrify you. Of The shape of water at Pan’s Labyrinth, What we do in the shadows, and everything else, few match the physicality of Jones. He returns to play “zombie” Billy Butcherson after originating the role in the first film.

Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones) rises from his grave in Hocus Pocus 2

Hold on to your hats, kids! Billy has more to do this time! He speaks! In fact, Billy is probably the biggest surprise in the evolution of the sequel. Fletcher isn’t afraid to let Jones show exactly what he can do, and in that uses Billy to much greater effect.

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What became extremely clear by looking Hocus Pocus 2 that’s how much the world has changed in 29 years. There’s an element of fear about the witches in 1993 that we don’t see in 2022. In fact, they seem almost played for comedy this time around. There is greater meaning in Hocus Pocus 2 that Salem remembers the Sanderson sisters. Rather than being afraid of these supernatural beings, they are fans. Throughout the film, we see a Sanderson Sister costume contest and young people asking witches for selfies. There’s even a certain element of fandom to Return of the Witches.

In 1993, fear may still have run in the family, but the film injected danger and stakes into the narrative. These women killed children, so it’s conceivable that they could potentially kill Dani (Thora Birch). There’s a reason to be afraid of the Sanderson Sisters. By 2022, however, the danger our characters face at any time is minimal. There are few things that creative use of salt won’t solve.

Sam Richardson Appraises The Sanderson Sisters With A Questioning Expression In Hocus Pocus 2

Instead, there’s more of a focus on humanizing the Sanderson sisters, which feels very slightly mixed up at the beginning and end of the film. Hocus Pocus 2 begins in a flashback, setting up the witches as children. Keep an eye out for Taylor Henderson, who steals the film’s opening minutes as young Winifred. His impression of Bette Midler is strange.

Thinking about it, the movie seems to be trying to do too much. It wants to tap into the fear of this Halloween plotline while humanizing (and modernizing) the story. It’s hard to get these opposing sides to work together, and the tone struggles. As a result, this leads to a cute and fun product, but nothing else. For lack of a better word, the movie ends up feeling very “Disney Plus.” He exposes some interesting ideas but ultimately does not quite manage to find his voice.

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West Hocus Pocus 2 merely an example of revisiting a much-loved franchise with 29 years of extra life experience? Should a Halloween movie be scary? Or is it just enough that a Halloween movie takes place during spooky season? These are questions I still struggle to find an answer to as I sit contemplating this film.

When all is said and done, however, Hocus Pocus 2 is ultimately a cute little family film, probably much more fantastic than horror. All the right elements are there to make this a fun sequel to that much-loved debut film. However, it’s hard to say if the sequel will gain the same longevity and love that the original still enjoys. However, there’s no denying that it’s fun to see all of these characters back together on screen. Although I can’t deny that it’s fluffier than the original, if you know and remember Hocus Pocusyou are sure to have fun.

Hocus Pocus 2 premieres on Disney Plus just in time for Spooky Season on September 30, 2022.

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