Skip to main content

Hocus Pocus 2 review: that old black magic, new again

Director Kenny Ortega’s 1993 film Hocus Pocus wasn’t a hit when it was first released, but history has been kind to it, and turned it into a Halloween tradition of sorts for children of a particular generation (and their children, in many cases). And because this is a time when everything old is eventually new again — particularly if it’s gained the sort of post-release popularity Hocus Pocus has enjoyed — Disney has decided to bring the sorcerous Sanderson sisters back for another adventure in Hocus Pocus 2.

Hocus Pocus 2 conjures up original cast members Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as Winifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson, respectively, the trio of witches who were accidentally resurrected in the 1993 film and terrorized the town of Salem before being defeated by a group of precocious teenagers and a magical black cat. This time around, the film features Step Up and 27 Dresses director Anne Fletcher behind the camera, and follows another group of Salem teenagers who unwittingly unleash the Sanderson sisters on the town again, 29 years after the events of the original film.

Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, and Kathy Najimy stand in a convenience store in a scene from Hocus Pocus 2.
Disney

Fans of the 1993 film will find plenty to like about Hocus Pocus 2, which manages to channel much of the same energy, humor, and seasonal playfulness of its predecessor.

Midler, Parker, and Najimy are nearly three decades separated from their performances in the first film, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the way they jump back into the roles in Hocus Pocus 2. The trio have an easy chemistry in both films, from the way they move, sing, and dance together, to their sisterly banter as they scheme, argue, commiserate, and celebrate. Much like the original film, the teenagers might be the story’s heroes, but the Sanderson sisters are the real stars of Hocus Pocus 2.

Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson sisters stand near Tony Hale in a scene from Hocus Pocus 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Hocus Pocus 2 also does a fine job of avoiding the pitfalls some sequels encounter when attempting to add a new chapter to a film released several decades earlier. Rather than trying to recreate the original film in the current time or changing the characters to make them a better fit for a modern story, Hocus Pocus 2 leans into the time-displaced nature of the Sanderson sisters’ return and how things have changed since their last adventure in the modern world. From the popularity of robot vacuums (as opposed to brooms) to the conveniences we take for granted now that would seem like entirely new magic to the Sandersons, Hocus Pocus 2 and its screenwriter, Jen D’Angelo, find some clever ways to make the elapsed time between the two films part of the story.

And again, like the original film that featured some capable performances from its younger cast members — which included Emmy  and BAFTA nominee Thora Birch, among others — Hocus Pocus 2 also casts some capable young actors as its teenage heroes.

Belissa Escobedo, Whitney Peak, and Lilia Buckingham walk near a high school in a scene from Hocus Pocus 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Gossip Girl actress Whitney Peak portrays Becca, who accidentally resurrects the Sanderson sisters in the film, and carries her role in the family-friendly adventure well, with just the sort of earnestness that Disney films of this sort demand. She’s joined by Lilia Buckingham and Belissa Escobedo as Becca’s best friends, Cassie and Izzy, respectively, along with Froy Gutierrez as Cassie’s dim-witted boyfriend. All four actors are fun to watch, and keep the story rolling along — and funny — when the Sanderson sisters are off-screen.

The film also brings in — and brings back — some familiar faces in entertaining roles, with legendary actor Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water) reprising the role of undead Billy Butcherson, and phenomenal Ted Lasso actress Hannah Waddingham portraying a key figure in the Sanderson sisters’ early years. Along with Tony Hale (Arrested Development) as the mayor of Salem, all three actors add even more entertainment value to a fun film.

Doug Jones as the zombified Billy Butcherson opens a door in a scene from Hocus Pocus 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While it remains to be seen if Hocus Pocus 2 can conjure up the same sort of cult appeal as the original film, the sequel certainly doesn’t do anything to tarnish the legacy of the Sandersons sisters’ debut. Those who consider Hocus Pocus a Halloween staple are likely to find themselves embracing this new, two-film saga with the Sandersons going forward, as the trio’s return gives audiences even more of a good thing.

Disney’s Hocus Pocus 2 premieres September 30 on Disney+ streaming service. 

Hocus Pocus 2 (2022)

Hocus Pocus 2
105m
Genre
Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Horror
Stars
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy
Directed by
Anne Fletcher
Watch on Disney+

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Rick Marshall
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local and national news, arts and entertainment, and…
All the movie and TV news from Day 1 of Disney’s D23 Expo
Promo art for Disney's Wish.

It appears that Disney has been holding out on us. For the first D23 Expo in three years, Walt Disney Pictures unveiled its ambitious plans to kick off the 100th anniversary of the studio with an array of original films (for both theatrical releases and Disney+) and new TV series. And Disney hasn't even gotten around to making its Marvel or Star Wars announcements yet!

The first day of D23 began with a look at the sequel to a classic flick that is coming to Disney+ on September 30: Hocus Pocus 2. Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker are all reprising their roles as the evil Sanderson Sisters from the original film. In the sequel, Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) are two teenage girls who are tricked into resurrecting the Sandersons, and the witches are out for revenge on all of Salem. The trailer also briefly introduces Doug Jones' Billy Butcherson, a good zombie who was cursed by the sisters.

Read more
Pinocchio review: nothing new to see in wooden adaptation
Pinocchio kneels on stage in a scene from the 2022 live-action film.

Disney's live-action adaptations of the studio's classic, animated features have generally been hit-or-miss affairs. While some have managed to breathe new life into familiar stories, others have fallen flat, delivering cold cash grabs that never quite channel the magic of the films that inspired them.

Arriving on the Disney+ streaming service on September 8, the live-action Pinocchio falls into the latter category, and it really is a shame, because the Robert Zemeckis-directed film has plenty of potential to go along with its impressive cast.

Read more
Me Time review: Netflix’s latest comedy falls apart
Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg wear matching tracksuits in Netflix's Me Time.

There is a scene early on in Me Time, the new Netflix comedy from writer-director John Hamburg, that feels like a perfect encapsulation of the film itself. It goes a little like this: After making a series of impulsive decisions, a formerly adventurous stay-at-home dad (played by Kevin Hart) finds himself in the desert with only a bucket for a bathroom. When he goes to use the bucket for the first time, he suddenly finds himself alone in a stand-off with a hungry mountain lion.

The sequence’s premise is effectively simple, and Kevin Hart is more than capable of elevating the absurdity of the situation by leaning into his character’s understandable fear. The scene, therefore, shouldn’t have any problem delivering the laughs that it promises. Unfortunately, the mountain lion that Hart’s Sonny is forced to face off against just so happens to have been brought to life with some of the worst CGI you'll likely see in any film this year.

Read more