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  • Writer's pictureMary Richey

Hocus Pocus 2 Movie Review: Is It Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus?

The Sanderson sisters are back! Twenty-nine years since they last ran amuck in Salem they have not changed a bit. However, their curiosity about today’s world, compared to the early nineties, has grown.

Due to its untimely release date, the original Hocus Pocus film, directed by Disney’s High School Musical director, Kenny Ortega, did not do well at the box office after its initial release. Since then, the film has become a Halloween household film families found on their television and evolved into this now classic franchise. This highly anticipated sequel is and will be an extension of Hocus Pocus fans’ spooky season traditions.

Directed by Anne Fletcher, who also directed popular films such as 27 Dresses, The Proposal, and Step Up, Hocus Pocus 2 makes many references and has easter eggs from the beginning to the end. One of the many things that make this film as great as it is is the very talented actresses, Parental Guidance star, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, who stars in the show, Sex in the City, and Kathy Najimy, who is featured in the movie, Sister Act, that have returned to their iconic roles as the kooky and witchy sisters that we all know and love.

The movie opens with a flashback to Winifred Sanderson and her sisters, on her sixteenth birthday in Salem, Massachusetts in 1653. At sixteen years old, during this time, a young lady would be wed to a man that is betrothed to her. To escape her betrothal, the sisters end up deep in the forest on the outskirts of town where a witch informs Winifred of the powers that she possesses. Taylor Henderson, who played Winifred, Ju Ju Journey Brener, who played Sarah, and Nina Kitchen who played Mary, captured the very recognizable personalities of the sisters in the most perfect way.

Now, let’s fast forward over three hundred years later, to 2022, when the Sanderson sisters had not been present or spotted for almost thirty years. The story of how the sisters were defeated by three children twenty-nine years ago has become a story that has been passed down every Halloween for a generation in modern-day Salem. Three friends Becca, played by Whitney Peak, who is also in the hit TV show Gossip Girl, Izzy, played by Belissa Escobedo who is featured in the popular show, American Horror Stories, and Cassie, played by Lilia Buckingham who plays Heather Masterson in Crown Lake, are struggling with their friendship since Cassie had started dating her boyfriend, Mike, played by Teen Wolf star, Froy Gutierrez. Becca and Izzy plan to celebrate Becca’s sixteenth birthday without Cassie because they are becoming more distant from her, but this year is not like the others.

They visit the local magic and apothecary shop that is run by a man named Gilbert, played by Ted Lasso star, Sam Richardson, who is obsessed with the Sanderson sisters and has taken the initiative to tell the story of the defeat of the Sanderson sisters almost thirty years ago to all of the children in Salem every Halloween. For Becca’s sixteenth birthday, Gilbert gifts her a magic candle, but Becca and Izzy don’t know until it is too late. When the girls light that candle in the woods, the Sanderson sisters are summoned and make such an iconic return.

The Sanderson sisters’ revelation consists of all the things for a typical villain’s bewitching entrance to make room for the spotlight as they begin their performance. This brings bizarre vibes to the film, and this time, their mission is to try to gain eternal life and world domination, a familiar motive for all movie villains. After being stunned that they had accidentally summoned the Sanderson sisters themselves, Becca and Izzy distract them with different tricks that result in treats of comedy for Hocus Pocus fans to enjoy.

Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy play some of the most legendary roles in all of Disney history and their chemistry is still, after twenty-nine years, the best. Seeing how the Sanderson sisters reacted to today’s world and the power of sisterhood and friendship that the sisters, Becca, and her friends portray has fans under witches’ powerful spell. The Sanderson sisters never lost their quick wit and kookiness, making jokes all throughout Salem relating to the modern world on their journey to their goal. Yes, they are evil, but unlike other villains, especially Disney villains, they have hearts.

Many people may be disappointed with the fact that some of the original characters from the first film are not in this film. Omri Katz, who played Max in the original film, though he has retired, did make an appearance with many of the original cast members in the Hocus Pocus Halloween Bash back in 2018 to celebrate twenty-five years since the film’s release. If they were in the film, it could have potentially gone in the same direction storyline-wise. When the film was first announced and fans started anticipating the film’s release date, it is possible that many fans were expecting the storyline of Max, Allison, and Dani, just almost thirty years older. It is likely that more fans did not expect new characters and a new storyline for the film.

Though the friendship of Becca, Izzy, and Cassie did not get enough screen time for them to be the focus of the film, their friendship is a great foundation for the overall message that the film is trying to get across. There is an unlikely, but very sweet friendship between Gilbert and Billy Butcherson, still played by Doug Jones that is a nod to the original film where Billy forms a friendship with Max. The girls’ friendship is the perfect foundation for the message of the film, as it begins to focus more on them and their bond. The Sanderson sisters will always be an unforgettable trio with an unbreakable bond.

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