This well-meaning sequel needs to conjure up better spells.
The 1993 “Hocus Pocus” was a Halloween movie that came out in the summer, which was probably why it wasn’t a big Disney hit. That and it got mixed reviews with Siskel & Ebert panning it. But despite that, it has become a Halloween favorite on TV, on par with “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Halloween,” and “Saw,” and so forth.
In fact, it’s become so popular that a sequel “Hocus Pocus 2” had to be made. So the studio made sure it came out on Disney+ at the end of September when October begins to kick in. I’m not a fan of the original, because of how weird and embarrassing it was at time, but I’m not much of a fan of this sequel, even though there are some improvements.
The original was about three sister witches, the Sandersons, who return to Salem (really filmed in one of my favorite vacation spots: Newport, RI) on Halloween to raise some Hell and live past the sunrise. The witches were played by Bette Midler as the infuriated Winnifred, Kathy Najimy as the nutty Mary, and Sarah Jessica Parker as the airhead Sarah. Now, they’re all back in their roles.
It’s all because two teenage would-be witches named Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) accidentally resurrect them, with some magic stuff from Gilbert (Sam Richardson), the friendly owner of a magic shop, which was the original Sanderson home.
The Sandersons return to, once again, take revenge on Salem, especially the mayor (Tony Hale), who is the descendent of the reverend who hated them. They find out selfies, roombas, and a costume contest based on themselves. And they also have their music covers of “The Bitch is Back,” which they change to “The Witches are Back,” and “One Way or Another,” which they hypnotize the town into capturing the mayor.
Here’s my mixed reaction to their plot.
I think it’s kind of funny when Mary flies on the roombas, saying: “These things have a mind of their own.”
I like their covers, especially the way Midler, Parker, and Najimy all add spices to them. That’s when they really “put a spell on you.”
And I could so without the subplot in which the mayor is in line for the best candy apples. He finally gets one, loses it when the possessed crowd starts to screw around with him, and when the stand is sold out (“Very unprofessional”), he has to buy a makeshift one, which he doesn’t know what it’s made from. This is too predictable, and not very funny, even though Hale is funny and flexible in general.
Peak and Escobedo both do their best to bring some spunk to their characters, and even Richardson is fun in his role with his versatility and facial expressions.
Here’s my mixed reaction to their subplots.
The girls have a former friend named Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), who is the mayor’s daughter, and would rather date the stupidest jock (Froy Gutierrez) in school. No really, this jock is so stupid that he thinks insulting her friend’s witchcraft is starting up a conversation. They’re tedious characters.
And the store owner is required by the Sanderson sisters to dig up the grave of Winnifred’s former lover Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones back in the role). The zombie is given more dialogue, until his mouth gets magically sewn back, and acts like a modern day Monty Python character, which works and flops at the same time.
Director Anne Fletcher gives the film a more vibrant look than the original, and the three returning actresses look like they’re having fun. It’s certain much better than such bad 90s sequels as “Home Sweet Home Alone” or “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” But if I was a witch, I could conjure up a spell to get rid of the cliches I’ve mentioned.
Streaming on Disney+ Tomorrow