**Contains spoilers for Hocus Pocus 2.**
Hocus Pocus is one of my favorite childhood Halloween films, edged out ever-so-slightly by Christina Ricci’s absolutely perfect portrayal of Wednesday in Addams Family Values, so when I heard there was a sequel on the way, my expectations were fairly high. This could be the reason why I both thoroughly enjoyed, and was immensely disappointed, in the Disney+ 2022 follow-up.
First, let’s start with the good news. Hocus Pocus 2 does a marvelous job of capturing the witchy magic of the original film. The opening sequence giving us a glimpse of the Sanderson Sisters’ childhood, and origins as practicing witches, is a delight. Original stars Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker still share the same sisterly chemistry from the first film and step right back into the characters they made so iconic to begin with. The new young cast that ends up being the movie’s main protagonists –Becca (Whitney Peak), Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham)– have some heft to their performances, with a believable bond of friendship being the main driving force of their storyline. The updated musical numbers are as enjoyable as the original’s “I Put a Spell On You,” if not more-so, especially fans of classic rock. The film’s climax is unexpectedly emotional and strangely pays homage to a particular scene in Avengers: Infinity War.
Now, for the not-so-good parts. While there are very specific nods to the original film, it feels like the movie goes out of it’s way to not mention Max (Omri Katz), Allison (Vinessa Shaw), and Dani (Thora Birch). It’s totally understandable that the filmmakers wanted to pave their own way in the sequel, however, for a film who’s success is based almost entirely off of a cult following rather than box office numbers, it felt like a cheat to the fans of the original film. Apparently, at one point, there were plans for Dani to at least make a cameo in Hocus Pocus 2, however Birch was unavailable for filming due to her commitment to her role in The Walking Dead. It is unclear if Katz or Shaw were approached to appear as well, but to not even have a throwaway line on how the characters from the first film are doing seems blasphemous in the age of “requels.” Additionally, the overall storyline of the film is a bit flimsy at times, with a pacing and plot points that essentially mirror the original film. Lastly, even though Hocus Pocus 2 does make an effort to explain why the Sanderson Sisters look older than their last appearance, at times the noticeable aging of the actresses kind of takes you out of the movie.
Overall, Hocus Pocus 2 was definitely an enjoyable watch and opens the story up for a new generation of fans –I just wish it didn’t do it so much at the expense of the legions of fans that have kept it alive for the past 30 years.