Starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy
Produced by Lynn Harris
Distributed by the Walt Disney Company
Rated PG for action, macabre/suggestive humor, and some language
Hocus Pocus (1993) was a delightful Halloween film that poked fun at superstitions and old legends while delivering a gripping story in which the protagonists risk their lives to save their town and themselves from the frightful Sanderson sisters, 17th-century witches brought back from the dead.
Having loved the original since childhood, I was excited to hear that the filmmakers had made a sequel. Unfortunately, Hocus Pocus 2 (2022) features only the trappings of the original—the Sanderson sisters have the same mannerisms, and much of the humor revolves around them dealing with modern technology—but with watered-down characters, a weak plot, and no moral message.
The Sanderson sisters of the original were scary; they drained the lives of children to keep themselves young and beautiful, transformed a teenager into a cat, and bewitched Salem’s adults to dance until they drop. The film was funny, with much of the humor coming from the sisters’ over-the-top antics, especially when encountering modern-day luxuries such as paved roads and buses. The Sanderson sisters of the new movie, although played by the same actresses, are decidedly less scary. They cast mere temporary spells, cause only minor physical harm, and refrain from luring children and sucking their youth. Further, the younger two sisters, Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimy), are essentially interchangeable sounding boards for the eldest, Winifred (Bette Midler). As Parker put it, . . .
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1. Joey Nolfi, “Hocus Pocus 2 Stars Reflect on Reuniting to Resurrect the Sanderson Sisters: ‘It’s Quite Satisfying,’” Entertainment Weekly, September 13, 2022, https://ew.com/movies/hocus-pocus-2-cast-interview-resurrecting-sanderson-sisters/.
2. Hilary Lewis, “‘Hocus Pocus 2’ Team on ‘Wish Fulfillment’ behind ‘Exciting’ Reveal, Meta Callback to First Film,” Hollywood Reporter, October 9, 2022, https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-features/hocus-pocus-2-actors-writer-director-interview-easter-eggs-witch-1235236624/.
3. Although the original film had celebrated love between siblings, it had been on the part of the protagonists rather than the villains, and not as their primary virtue but as one among competing motivations.