Hocus Pocus 2 (2022) – Movie Review


There’s nothing inherently wrong with a film being made with a very specific audience in mind. In this case, it’s for fans of the 1993 cult classic Hocus Pocus, one of the odder parts of Disney’s storied history. I only got around to watching it fairly recently (on insistence from my significant other), and while I don’t entirely get the hype for it, it’s still quite fun. Looking at it through a modern lens, it’s quite easy to see why the Sanderson sisters would become so iconic, since they are the perfect intersection between Drag theatricality, Gothic subversiveness, and just plain hammy performances. I mean, yeah, the amount of time the narrative fixates on the virginity of teenagers is… a bit much, but it has its place in pop culture. A place that Disney has now seen fit to add on to with a decades-removed sequel.

In keeping with the postmodern trends of modern Disney films, this tries to reconcile the Sanderson sisters’ place as villains within the original film’s story, with their current place as icons and even heroes for the weird and fabulous amongst us. It opens with the teenaged Sandersons in Salem to give their backstory a more feminist reading, showing their introduction to witchcraft as a result of being Othered by their Puritanical neighbours, and there’s a stronger emphasis on their bond as siblings. However, in trying to make them more likeable, to the point of trying to handwave away the casual killing of children in-story, the film ends up sanding off the darker edges that… well, made them interesting in the first place.

It doesn’t help that this film spends a lot of time going through the same motions as the first film, showing the Sandersons interacting once again with modern life and how unfamiliar it is to them. Where this was kinda cute in the first film, like its update of the flying broomstick or their meeting with ‘Satan’, a lot of these fish-out-of-water jokes have become very stale in the interim. Like, beyond similarities to the original, so much of them reacting to technology and the norms of Halloween have been so many goddamn times in other movies, it’s difficult to find the novelty in them anymore. Well, aside from this film’s own update on the flying broomstick, which admittedly was pretty clever.

Even outside of the jokes, the twenty-three years that have passed between films seem to have sapped the Sandersons of their own particular magic. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy are still doing their Three Malefic Stooges routine, and it gets a few chuckles, but there’s a noticeable drop in energy this time around. I get it, time makes fools of us all, but there’s that engaging spark that made them so watchable the first time around just… isn’t here. To epitomise this, there’s the big musical number with the Sandersons covering One Way Or Another. Granted, the large-scale choreography is cool to see, but it’s nowhere near as special as their transcendent rendition of I Put A Spell On You.

And that’s ultimately the big problem with all this: It’s not special. It resurrects an old favourite to play their big hits, but without adding anything substantial enough to make the return worthwhile as opposed to, say, just watching the original again. It’s nostalgia-laden fanservice through and through, and I can somewhat understand superfans of the first film getting into this, but personally, I just see this as a watering-down of what made that original worth cherishing to this day.