We’ll be honest, we really, REALLY, wanted to see the return of the Sanderson Sisters. Now that they’re return is imminent on Disney+ is it worth the effort to light that black flame candle? We had the chance to watch an advance screening of the HOCUS POCUS 2 and while we can honestly say that this is not exactly the return we’d have hoped for, the comedic crones still have some magic up their cloaked sleeves.
The sequel to the 1993 cult classic aims to reignite the flame of the silly spooky sisters from Salem it assuredly delivers heavy on the camp making for a bewitching ride. Set in modern day Salem, the story centers in on three young friends (Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, and Lilia Buckingham) who find themselves intertwined in the accidental return of three now-infamous necrotic necromancers, a devious book, and a restless zombie that never found peace.
Tonally, the movie feels a bit like a Disney Channel Original Movie so the release to Disney+ is a suitable one. The whole first act is a little clunky and the initial return of Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary (Kathy Najimy) is a little awkward. Yet, somehow things start to click almost at once when the witches find themselves in a magic shop not unlike their familiar familial cottage of yesteryear.
Bette, SJP, and Kathy still shine bright — you might say they have serious hex appeal. They live comfortably within these roles and they vigorously chew up the scenery. Our famous sister witches get a mostly superfluous backstory that raises more questions than answers and their ultimate ending is one that may prove polarizing. Still, they do get a musical moment — three in fact — if you count a mid-credit scene. And, of course, there’s an end-credit scene that sets up <REDACTED>.
What’s definitely changed in the past 29 years is the framework of the storytelling. While the original film was hardly a scarefest, it still veered into unsettling and kinda creepy territory which has been thoroughly scrubbed for this return. That scary undertone helped counter balance the larger-than-life exploits so the lack of it here tilts everything too heavily in the direction of everything running amok. A little grounding would have gone a long way to really help these witches soar.
The homages to the 1993 original are plentiful and range from overt to blink-and-miss but they never beat you over the head. Several catch phrases and one liners also get rehashed with varying degrees of success. The reference to Mrs. Dennison’s Madonna costume was fun but would have been MUCH funnier if the costume had been any other iconic look that Madge has rocked since 1993 – and surely there are plenty. Instead, we got a literal retread of the cone bra getup which is obviously an incredibly minor gripe.
HOCUS POCUS 2 is a fun romp into something familiar but new. When it comes time next year to fire up the Halloween classics, this one might not come into regular rotation but it won’t be excluded outright. To its strength, the film should likely find some fans in the younger set at which it’s definitely partially aimed leaving the franchise ripe for further interest down the line. And honestly, we’re ready for more Sanderson magic.
HOCUS POCUS 2 streams exclusively on Disney+ September 30, 2022.