Hocus Pocus 2 relies heavily on nostalgia to overcome its flaws

HOCUS POCUS - Freeforms spooktacular 13 Nights of Halloween annual programming event brings the chills and thrills October 19 -31 with your favorite Halloween films. (BUENA VISTA PICTURES/ANDREW COOPER)BETTE MIDLER
HOCUS POCUS - Freeforms spooktacular 13 Nights of Halloween annual programming event brings the chills and thrills October 19 -31 with your favorite Halloween films. (BUENA VISTA PICTURES/ANDREW COOPER)BETTE MIDLER /

Hocus Pocus 2 has none of the bite of the first one, when the Sanderson sisters posed a real threat to the children of Salem.  They are caricatures of the caricatures they created, and while the nostalgia of reuniting with beloved characters makes the movie fun and entertaining, it lacks depth and is a bit saccharine.  Regardless, I will never tire of the Sanderson sisters and love it anytime a virgin lights the black flame candle and summons them. As soon as Mary and Sarah chant “Itch-it-a-cop-it-a-mel-a-ka-mys-ti-ca” I’m transported back to 1993 when we first met our beloved witches.

The movie starts in OLD Salem on Winnie’s sixteenth birthday, when the girls were just orphans ostracized from their neighbors because of Winnifred’s temper.  The Reverend Traske tries to force her to marry, and banishes her from the town when she refuses, attempting to separate her from her sisters, thus making him a forever enemy of the Sandersons (which is relevant to the modern day plot).  They escape to the woods and encounter a witch, which is where they get Book, and Winnie comes into her power. The elder witch warns Winnie against the “Magica Maxima” spell, which even Book refuses to display, though it would make them the most powerful witches in the world.

Fast forward to present day Halloween in Salem when Becca and her best friend Izzy are planning to celebrate Becca’s sixteenth birthday with their usual ritual in the same woods the Sandersons came into their power.  A local magic store owner (the store being the old Sanderon house) gifts Izzy a special candle to light for her ceremony…you can see where this is going.  The candle is a black flame candle and the Sanderson sisters are resurrected with a song and dance number (that honestly makes no sense).  Winnie is determined that this time they will NOT disappear when the black flame burns out, even if she has to perform the forbidden spell to achieve that goal.

Hocus Pocus 2
Hocus Pocus 2 – Courtesy Disney+ /

Hocus Pocus 2 is even somehow even campier than the original

Hocus Pocus 2 is even more kid friendly than the first, with no child endangerment making the witches villainous and scary.  There are plenty of jokes geared toward the original fans of the movie, most of them very meta.  The “ancient witches encountering modern life” jokes don’t get old – particularly the magical automatic doors to the Walgreens and the new cleaning/flight devices, as the only broom in Walgreens is part of a Halloween display. The main plot (which lacks real conflict) is the sisters’ hunt for the ingredients to the “Magica Maxima” potion, which includes the blood of their enemy (the Mayor, who is Reverend Traske’s ancestor), the head of a lover (the beloved zombie Billy Butcherson), among other things.

The camp amps up when the real Sanderson sisters stumble into a Sanderson look alike contest, with cameos by well known drag stars Ginger Minj, Kahmora Hall, and Kornbread Jeté. The witches LOSE, and use their rendition of Blondie’s One Way or Another to cast a spell on the audience in an effort to find the mayor.  Unfortunately, it’s quite pointless as once the dancers find the Mayor, they just disperse – and the witches aren’t even following them, having been trapped with salt by Becca, Izzy, and Traske’s daughter Cassie (the third of their little coven) at Traske’s house.  In the end, the sisters aren’t defeated by the cunning of their teenage adversaries, but by Winnie’s own hubris – not only does she not heed the warning of the witch from all those years ago, but she doesn’t even READ the warning inscribed before the “Magica Maxima” spell in Book.

The stars AND audience of Hocus Pocus 2 have aged and can’t quite capture the magic of the original

Hocus Pocus 2‘s secondary plot about Becca coming into her own witch powers is more interesting than the “Magica Maxima ‘plot, and I wish it had more of a starring role.  The story of a young coven taking over the legacy of the Sandersons is one worth exploring further – and maybe it will be, based on the stinger after the credits.  The time between the young Sanderson story and the return to the woods with all the ingredients drags a bit, which is unfortunate for all the talent and sentimentality the movie has working in its favor.  Also, thirty years is a long time, and the witches we knew are not the witches we get, except for maybe Bette Midler, who must have her own Book and coven because she looks and sounds almost completely unaged, even though she’s 76!  That is to be expected, but in a way it’s a reminder that all of us fans of the first movie have ALSO aged 30 years and it feels like a morbid indication of our own mortality.

So maybe I’m a bit of a curmudgeon – the first Hocus Pocus was geared toward MY age group after all!  Regardless, I enjoyed the movie, the witches’ distinct brand of humor is still funny, and of course I got a particular thrill at the meta references that went over my daughter’s head.  Tune in if you’re a Sanderson fan, but don’t expect the same energy and childlike glee the first movie elicits – as nothing is the same as it was, nor can it be.  Enjoy the movie for what it is – a reminder of why we fell in love with the Sandersons in the first place, and maybe a new future for the legacy, even if it also goes straight to streaming.

Hocus Pocus 2 is currently streaming on Disney+ with no extra charge to subscribers.

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Do you think the legacy of Sanderson sisters was better left alone?  Let me know in the comments.