Hocus Pocus 2 (2022)
Hocus Pocus 2 (2022)

Genre: Comedy and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.

Release Date: September 30th, 2022 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Anne Fletcher Actors: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, Lilia Buckingham, Froy Gutierrez, Sam Richardson, Doug Jones, Tony Hale

 


 

“S

he is so ugly and unpleasant.” In Salem, 1653, the three young Sanderson sisters, led by 16-year-old Winifred, discuss the horrible news of the day: Winifred is getting older and is supposed to be wed in a pairing arranged by the local reverend. When she refuses, the severe clergyman banishes the Sandersons from Salem, prompting them to flee into the Forbidden Wood – where witches go to charge their powers. When they stumble upon the realm of a child-eating sorceress (Hannah Waddingham), who identifies their potential with the dark arts, they’re gifted the Manual of Witchcraft and Alchemy (a book made of human skin, with a single, twitching eyeball on its cover), which allows them to cast vengeful spells against the townsfolk. “A witch is nothing without her coven.”

Centuries later, in present-day Massachusetts, pals Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) attend class at Samuel Skelton High School, where they fuss over former friend Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), who used to participate in spellcasting and other witchy stuff with them before apparently outgrowing such juvenile routines. And Cassie’s boyfriend Mike (Froy Gutierrez) doesn’t understand their falling-out, causing further contention – and a classroom disruption that ends in detention. Later that day, Becca and Izzy visit their standard haunt, a magic shop run by aspiring conjurer Gilbert the Great (Sam Richardson), where they acquire a special candle that winds up summoning – yet again – the accursed Sanderson clan: Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary (Kathy Najimy), who immediately wish to return to their plot of stealing souls from kids to rejuvenate their youthfulness.

Though it’s been 29 years since “Hocus Pocus” debuted, this follow-up makes sure to retain a lot of the smaller details – from names like Billy Butcherson and Binx to the rituals of the black flame candle to costumes and hairstyles. And it also reincorporates the cheesiness; despite countless modern updates (particularly with the setting and technology, as well as improvements with computer animation and other special effects), the song-and-dance introductions, over-the-top mannerisms, one-liner babbling, and mild slapstick (as if the Sandersons are witch versions of The Three Stooges) are as silly as ever. Live-action children’s movies are incredibly rare for a reason (especially those with PG-limited content); the target audience for this project just might be nonexistent, except for fans who grew up with the slowly increasing popularity of the original film through decades-long syndication.

“They’re back! Again.” Regardless of the purposeful repetition and general lack of fresh ideas, there’s something nominally amusing about seeing Midler, Parker, and Najimy reprise their roles, recreating fun-loving, nostalgic personas with ease. There isn’t much for them to do, however (save for the reconstruction of familiar actions and scenes) – an issue that plagued the 1993 release, even before these characters would become recognizable. At least they’re supposed to be goofy; the teenage protagonists don’t have the same excuse, and it’s therefore far less convincing when they behave with both conspicuous verbal restraint and exaggerated physical comedy. Other than the fact that the studio was able to uncommonly regroup the three headliners so many years later, there’s little reason for this picture to exist; the handful of minimally funny moments – and a partially moving, satisfying finale – aren’t quite enough to mark a worthwhile reunion in feature-length form. “That promise has expired!”

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10