Cert – Recommended for ages 12+, Run-time – 1 hour 45 minutes, Director – Anne Fletcher
Friends Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) must stop the recently revived Sanderson sisters (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker) before they cast a spell which could give them the power to kill the town of Salem.
Despite not being a huge fan of the original Hocus Pocus, I certainly like it but don’t hold it as fondly as many who have grown up with it, there’s no denying the smile that appeared on my face as the Sanderson sisters returned. While the following musical number of ‘The Witch Is Back’ might not entirely strike the same feeling Bette Midler’s preceding cry of “lock up your children. We’re back!” is a true mark that the trio (also including Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker) have very much returned after 29 years.
They’re brought back by a spell-gone-wrong in the ‘forbidden woods’ by school friends Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo). The two have been interested in magic and witchcraft for many years, however aren’t quite ready to be dealing with the resurrected Sanderson sisters, especially when their aims switch from living further than the night to casting a spell to give them all-power. A spell which would allow them to kill the entire town of Salem – which has done them wrong before in its various different forms through history. Helping them to get the objects that they need to cast this spell is Sanderson museum and gift shop owner Gilbert (Sam Richardson), with the help of returning zombified former Sanderson lover (“It was one kiss”) Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones).
There are a handful of different groupings throughout the film that we jump back and forth between. While the main one is perhaps that of Becca and Izzy trying to stop the sisters from destroying their town the stars of the show are truly Midler, Najimy and Jessica Parker. They ramp up the camp with intentionally over-the-top performances and it seems clear that the three are all having a great deal of fun returning to these roles. The fun emits from the screen as there are plenty of chuckles to be had within the scenes where they take the lead. For fans of the original film this sequel is likely to be a hit. While it ticks the various throwback boxes it still paves itself out with enough to justify itself as a sequel largely down to its storyline, even if that element doesn’t overly steal the show.
The surrounding elements may sometimes slip into feeling like a cliched ‘Disney Channel’ movie (one particular strand for Becca and Izzy involves their rocky friendship with Lilia Buckingham’s Cassie since she started dating Mike (Froy Gutierrez) – a guy who is sometimes late because he “decided to have two breakfasts”) although this can be viewed as it simply working/ leaning towards a new generation. For a new group of people this may be what the original Hocus Pocus has become for many people since its first release, or rather in that film’s case various annual airings on TV. This is very much a film for fans of the original, and a new generation of young viewers.
However, for those outsiders, or with generally less connection to Hocus Pocus and the Sanderson sisters, there’s still a good deal to enjoy here. Plenty of chuckles and awareness of campness help to move things along and boost the overall enjoyment of the film. The story may feel somewhat mixed at times with its various different elements, but the film certainly knows what the audience are here for and it supplies it while still moving things along.
The various sets of characters may bring a different tone as the story jumps between each one but Hocus Pocus 2 knows that the main attraction is the Sanderson sisters and it provides them in all their camp comedic glory whilst not halting the film as a whole.