Hocus Pocus 2 is an okay sequel for an okay Halloween film.
Published on October 6, 2022
Rating 3 /5
Over the years, Hocus Pocus went from a Halloween film that failed at the box office to a staple of the holiday through home video and cable airings. It’s a suitable enough Halloween treat for the family as kids attempt to stop the revived Sanderson Sisters from spreading evil in the town of Salem. It’s also just a lot of fun watching Bette Middler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy playing over-the-top witches who get into fish-out-of-water jokes and musical performances. The cult following soon grew to a level that many had anticipated a sequel.
Hocus Pocus 2 arrives with a decent amount of flair and foundation for bringing back the witches after nearly 30 years. We get a little more backstory on the sisters and how they came to adopt their witch powers, favoring striking back against a socially discriminating town. In addition to having some kids play the absurd witch trio, this lays the groundwork for an okay thematic element of faithfulness to those you love. For the Sandersons, this love is present in their comradery but will become lost in their lust for power. So don’t worry if you had fears that central witches would be going down the misunderstood-villain route. They’re still evil women with lust for power who can’t wait to crash a party or steal souls.
The new batch of adolescence tackling the witches have a wee bit more depth. Becca (Whitney Peak) is a high school student who finds herself so obsessed with witchcraft that her ritual with her best friend Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) accidentally brings the Sandersons into the 21st century. The two friends have a third friend, Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), but they fear their friendship may be harder to maintain. This feels somehow harder with Cassie being the daughter of the town’s eccentric and egotistical mayor Jefry (Tony Hale), who is annoying less for his politics and more for his absurd obsession with candy apples. All three of the teens have to come together to learn more about themselves and stop the Sanderson sisters with the same faithfulness but less, you know, ending-the-world spellcasting.
In addition to Tony Hale, there are a few fun adult actors in the cast. Sam Richardson perfectly handles the exposition dumping in a fun way as a witch store owner who is a big fan of the Sandersons (no doubt an audience surrogate for some die-hard fans). Doug Jones is the only other returning cast member in the role of the undead Billy, this time given many more lines without his mouth constantly being stitched shut. Richardson and Jones have a decent amount of chemistry between them as they bicker over the Sandersons and fulfilling a spell. Hannah Waddingham is in the film only briefly as another witch but her presence adds certain darkness that makes the narrative hit a little harder.
The real draw for this film is without question the trio of Middler, Parker, and Najimy. They mostly have the same great energy. Little has changed in their misunderstandings of the world. One of the funniest sequences features them entering a Wahlgreens and mistaking beauty products for harboring the souls of children. It’s just a lot of fun watching them amble about and eat skin cream. The scene ends on a high note as well when they leave on brooms, with Najimy utilizing two robotic vacuum cleaners. If you really loved when the Sandersons sang at a Halloween party in the previous film, you’ll get away with more of that in this picture. In fact, the end credits feature a studio recording with the actors still in character.
Hocus Pocus 2 is an okay sequel for an okay Halloween film. Even though the original has a cult following, it’s still a mostly meandering picture that is only held firm by the central witch characters. The same remains true in this film with the teens feeling like unique characters but with a handful of missing scenes to develop them further. Still, for its absurdity and toe-tapping asides, this is a suitable enough picture for families that have grown tired of having Hocus Pocus on repeat every Halloween.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.