Over the years, Hocus Pocus has evolved into a Halloween cult classic. The campy bravado of the Sanderson sisters became more and more popular with audiences as the movie aged, and the 1993 film turned into a Halloween favorite that many people rewatch every October.
Nearly 30 years later, Disney+ has come out with a sequel to the Sanderson sisters’ story: Hocus Pocus 2 premiered on the streaming platform on September 30, complete with many of the original cast members including Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker. I sat down to watch this movie expecting a lukewarm cash grab with the same plot as the original—but I was sorely mistaken. Here are my thoughts on Hocus Pocus 2, a sequel that is well worth the wait.
The Young Sanderson Sisters Are The Perfect Way To Start The Movie
Hocus Pocus 2 begins in the 1600s in Salem, Massachusetts. There, we meet the Sanderson Sisters: Winnie, Mary, and Sarah.
First of all, these young ladies understood the assignment. They capture the spirit of their older counterparts so well. Young Winnie’s prosthetic teeth are so perfect—it’s really believable that we’re looking at young Winifred Sanderson.
Starting with the young girls also gives us the right context to begin the story—these girls aren’t evil. They’re witches living in Puritan Massachusetts—hardly the antagonists, given what we know about the Salem witch trials. It gives meaning to the sisters’ vendetta against mortals.
They Scored Some Amazing Actors For Supporting Roles
We can’t discuss Hocus Pocus 2 without addressing the stellar cast of supporting characters sprinkled throughout. We have Tony Hale as the Puritan Reverend Traske, but also as present-day Mayor Traske. That’s suspicious, but we’ll get back to that later.
My favorite cameo is that of Ted Lasso’s Hannah Waddingham, who dazzles as the Mother Witch. She sets the story in motion and gifts the sisters with their spellbook, affectionately named “Book.”
Hocus Pocus 2 also includes one of my all-time favorite comic relief actors, Sam Richardson. He stars as Gilbert, the owner of a magic shop in present-day Salem that actually holds many of the Sanderson sisters' relics (including Book).
The Rules Are The Same
The movie lets us know right off the bat that Hocus Pocus lore has not changed: Gilbert tells us at his shop that when a virgin lights the black flame candle on Halloween night, the sisters will return again.
The perfect candidates for the task are Becca and Izzy—two teens at Salem High School who have a yearly tradition of doing “witch rituals” in the forbidden forest on Halloween night. Gilbert also reveals legend has it that witches get their powers on the night of their sixteenth birthday. As luck would have it, Becca’s sixteenth birthday is this Halloween.
With a black flame candle gifted to them by Gilbert, Becca and Izzy make their way into the forest to perform their ritual—of course, bringing back the Sanderson Sisters in the process.
SJP Will Always Be My Favorite Sanderson Sister
Sarah Jessica Parker is just as cute in this movie as she was in the original. She’s certainly become a lot more famous since the debut of the original Hocus Pocus in 1993—after all, Sex and the City didn’t even premiere until 1998. Regardless, SJP doesn’t act “too cool” for the movie. Her character is equally as goofy as she was in 1993, and you never get the feeling that she feels too important for the role.
I’m also SO obsessed with the way Sarah rides her broomstick. She’s truly an icon.
“One Way Or Another” Doesn’t Hit The Same As “I Put A Spell On You”
As the sisters make their way through present-day Salem, they happen upon a Sanderson Sisters costume contest. I love how they’re so charmed everytime people recognize them.
After introducing themselves as “The Originals,” the sisters start to gear up for a musical number. I was READY for a reprise of “I Put A Spell On You,” like they sang in the original:
But no, they sang “One Way or Another” by Blondie. It’s honestly a letdown compared to “I Put A Spell on You,” but it does work just as well for the sisters’ mind-control.
However, the scene with the townspeople dancing down the road was very good. It’s just plain fun to see a crowd of people in Halloween costumes line dancing down the street.
This Movie Is Actually Funny!
One thing I didn’t expect from Hocus Pocus 2 was the amount I would laugh. There are so many opportunities for modern-day magic gags, and the movie took full advantage of them. Times have changed a LOT since the '90s—it makes total sense for the sisters to think there’s a woman trapped inside the Alexa, or that retinol contains mortal souls.
The joke that really got me was when the sisters got on their modern-day broomsticks. After Sarah rides out of Walgreens on a Swiffer, Mary follows behind riding two Roombas like a hoverboard.
But, this joke has layers: Later in the movie, when Becca blocks the sisters’ magic with salt, Mary’s trusty Roombas come along to vacuum it all up.
Becca, Izzy, And Cassie And The Modern-Day Sanderson Sisters
It becomes clear throughout the movie that Becca, Izzy, and their former friend Cassie are meant to represent the modern-day versions of the Sanderson sisters. Becca is Winnie: she’s the leader of the group, and as a budding witch she’s also the most powerful. Winnie even calls Becca a “pest,” a direct reference to the Puritans who wailed about Winnie’s “petulance” at the beginning of the movie.
Izzy is Mary, the loyal sidekick; Cassie is Sarah, the pretty, popular one who’s the most likely to get distracted by boys. But look a little closer—the girls even wear their hair in ways that are reminiscent of the sister they represent. Becca has full, curly hair, Izzy wears hers up in a ponytail that sits atop her head, and Cassie wears hers down.
This Movie Is Actually A Tear-Jerker
I definitely didn’t expect Hocus Pocus 2 to make me cry.
The sisters plan to save themselves from disappearing at dawn by casting a spell that will make Winnie the most powerful witch of all time. It works, until the caveat is revealed: the spell will take what Winnie values most:
That’s right: The price Winnie has to pay is losing her sisters. Becca resolves the situation with a counterspell—but instead of bringing Mary and Sarah back, the spell sends Winnie to be with them.
I teared up at the realization that Winnie values her sisters over her powers. Book cried, too.
The Moral Of The Story: Sisterhood
A witch is nothing without her coven, as Becca learns. Power is meant to be shared! While Becca isn’t strong enough to defeat the Sanderson Sisters on her own, she’s able to make her magic stronger by joining hands with Izzy and Cassie.
The Sanderson sisters learn this lesson too. Before they cast their spell, Winnie throws one of her usual insults at Sarah. For once, Sarah stands up to her older sister, expressing that she’s a good and loyal sister and she deserves to be treated as such.
When Sarah and Mary begin to disappear, we realize that Winnie already knows how good and loyal her sisters are. She knows that even if she’s the most powerful witch in the world, she’s nothing without her sisters by her side.
Hocus Pocus 2 Is A Sequel Done Right
Somehow, Hocus Pocus 2 evokes nostalgia without feeling like a lifeless rehash of the original. Take, for example, the return of Billy Butcherson: he’s a fun character to include as a nod to the original, but it never feels like the writers brought him back just so the audience could say, “Look, there’s Billy. I remember him from the old movie.” There’s context for his return. Winnie needs him for her spell.
Overall, I expected a lot of indulgent jokes with audible pauses for audience laughter—but I was mistaken. This movie trusts its audience to keep up with the fast-paced dialogue of the quick-witted sisters, without leaving room for the fluff you might expect from a lesser sequel.
The Tony Hale red herring also really threw me. I was waiting for Mayor Traske to become the villain, or for them to reveal he was immortal, but he really was just a nice dad running for mayor (unless the Hocus Pocus 2 ending is hinting at more trouble ahead in another sequel).
This movie surprised me, entertained me, and put me in the Halloween spirit. I give it five out of five jack-o-lanterns (the best possible rating for a Halloween sequel).
She/her. Lover of female-led comedies, Saturday Night Live, and THAT scene in Fleabag. Will probably get up halfway through the movie to add more butter to the popcorn.
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