Disney+'s Hocus Pocus 2 Review: The Return Of The Sanderson Sisters Is Very Much A Treat

Disney’s streaming sequel offers more spooky family fun.

Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, and Sarah Jessica Parker appear as The Sanderson Sisters at a Halloween carnival in Hocus Pocus 2.
(Image: © Disney+)

For almost as long as the movie has existed, director Kenny Ortega’s Hocus Pocus has been a cult classic that gets a lot of airplay during the Halloween season. Next year commemorates the 30th anniversary of the original film... but it’s never too early to release a streaming legacy-quel to stoke the fanhood fire. That’s exactly what we have coming from Disney+, as the return of the Sanderson sisters is now heading into the living rooms of everyone who’s grown up with Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy running amok on their TV screens. 

The results are very much a treat, as Hocus Pocus 2 doesn’t miss a beat when bringing back the magic – albeit with a slightly lighter tone than before. Like any good long-awaited continuation, director Anne Fletcher’s movie picks up decades after the events of the original Hocus Pocus. What starts as an accidental summoning of Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary Sanderson (Kathy Najimy) turns into another full moon’s worth of adventure for a trio of estranged high school friends (Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, and Lilia Buckingham). 

Hocus Pocus 2 is an idea that’s welcomed on paper, but could have very easily been executed as a nostalgia grab by cynics. That massive pitfall is avoided thanks to the efforts of screenwriter Jen D’Angelo, who also worked on the story with Hocus Pocus’ story contributor/producer David Kirschner and Blake Harris. Though it’s not as creepy as the original Hocus Pocus, the sequel offers a lot of festive fun as a gateway horror romp.

Hocus Pocus 2 honors the original story, but avoids feeling repetitive.

Digging into the origins of the Sandersons and their relationship with magic is only part of how Hocus Pocus 2 finds a comfortable middle ground between the past and the present. Through the inclusion of easter eggs, callbacks, and backstory that acknowledge the first adventure, the film obviously holds its older sibling close to its heart. In the same breath, it's a new spell that is being cast almost 30 years later.

Rather than dropping the audience into a new family’s woes, or continuing the adventures of Max, Allison, and Dani, we’re introduced to Becca, Izzy, and Cassie. With these three friends on the rocks who have a more than passing interest in witchcraft, Hocus Pocus 2 delivers new dynamics to spotlight before the magic happens (literally). Luckily, the town of Salem hasn’t changed terribly much in the years since Hocus Pocus, although there’s now a conveniently placed Walgreens that offers some comedic shenanigans.

The spirit of this legacy-quel plays towards what we remember from Hocus Pocus, but it’s not a mere retread. This is especially true when we learn more about the lore surrounding the Sanderson’s transformation into witches, which also helps leave the door open for a Hocus Pocus 3

Everyone is having fun in this long awaited continuation, especially Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy.

For as long as the demand for Hocus Pocus 2 has persisted, the original trio of actors at the heart of it all have been enthusiastic to get back to work. Bette Midler has been especially vocal through the years, and seeing her back together with Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy shows why. Time may have passed, but these three costars haven’t lost step with each other or their characters' world. Furthermore, the script knows what it’s doing, as there’s moments where you can feel a packed house would applaud the action. 

Our young new coven in Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, and Lilia Buckingham make for a great foundation to the new ensemble facing off against Hocus Pocus royalty, which also includes a mini Veep reunion through the additions of Sam Richardson and Tony Hale alongside with Kathy Najimy. Veteran cast members mesh well with the newcomers to Salem, with everyone involved bringing out the best in their scene partners.

Both sides of the aisle are having tons of fun, walking the delicate balance between the laughs and screams. The environment may not feel as lived in as it did in Hocus Pocus, but that’s a story that people know so well that it doesn’t need to be baked in all that much. So long as you know the Sanderson Sisters, you know all you need to before heading into the fun this time around. 

It’s not as dark as the first film, but Hocus Pocus 2 is still as warm and funny as its predecessor.

Maybe it’s because Hocus Pocus 2 exists at this particular moment of the Disney brand, but it’s a story that doesn’t feel as spooky to children as the original. The sense of humor that dips its toes into some gags that’ll land with teens and adults does survive the crossover into this next chapter, which helps keep the action in the same wheelhouse. Even with a toned down sense of terror, you could easily use this film as a gateway genre movie to introduce younglings to more scary stuff.

Above all else, there’s one purpose that Hocus Pocus 2 seems to serve most admirably: it’s a beautiful companion to the 1993 classic. Holding its own rather well in comparison to the original, it’s going to be all too easy to enjoy these fun sized treats back to back when the leaves start to fall and Jack-o-Lanterns start to light each year. Some sequels are just a bunch of hocus pocus when they try to recapture the magic that inspired them, but Hocus Pocus 2 has new spells to cast, along with those familiar incantations which still work like a charm.

With the 30th anniversary to Hocus Pocus taking place next year, it would be a curse-worthy offense not to send these movies to theaters together eventually. For now, Hocus Pocus 2 is going to be the movie that makes the day of anyone who still loves the Sanderson Sisters’ exploits. Maybe with a secure streaming home, and enough word of mouth, this might not be the last the world sees of these mischievous maidens, be it through repertory screenings or future installments.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.