Review of the entertaining “Hocus Pocus 2” featuring the witches: I’ve always found “Hocus Pocus” memories to be a little mysterious. I was in the correct age group when “Hocus Pocus” came out in the summer of 1993. (age 9, just entering third grade), and I remember it being just OK. It is nothing new for youngsters to love bad movies and keep that soft place into adulthood. Nevertheless, a straight-to-Disney+ sequel created 30 years later seems, at best, cynical.
So it came as a welcome surprise to see that “Hocus Pocus 2” is actually rather entertaining. It’s the ideal Disney+ movie—seasonally appropriate entertainment that, for at least one night, may save a family from the dread of constant scrolling and indecision—set in a Stars Hollow-like Salem.
In “Hocus Pocus 2,” the Sanderson sisters Winifred (Midler), Sarah (Parker), and Mary (Najimy) are once more let loose on their modern-day village thanks to funny, vibrant writing by Jen D’Angelo. This time, it’s some coven-curious adolescent girls named Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) who unintentionally bring them back to life and then attempt to outsmart them in any way possible. This results in a funny scene in a pharmacy where the perpetually vain Sandersons sample the serums in the beauty section.
Midler, Parker, and Najimy are all willing to do magic tricks, songs, and dances for the audience and occasionally just for themselves. But they are only a small part of this oddly amusing concoction, which also features well-rounded teen characters and a very strong comedic supporting cast. Including Doug Jones as a “good zombie,” Sam Richardson as the proprietor of the neighbourhood occult shop, and Tony Hale as the mayor and a reverend from the time of the Salem Witch Trials. A far too brief cameo as another witch is also made by Hannah Waddingham from “Ted Lasso.”
The three performers that portray the young Sanderson sisters, Taylor Henderson as Winifred, Nina Kitchen as Mary, and Juju Journey Brener as Sarah, deserve special recognition since they do a beautiful job of portraying their adult counterparts in the brief origin narrative. The teenage girls, however, who have their own problems in addition to preventing the Sanderson sisters from becoming super powerful, make up the movie’s core. Becca and Izzy are coping with adulthood.
In Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), their third child has shifted her focus from their amateur witch to her jock boyfriend. A highlight is Peak, who appeared in “Molly’s Game” as Idris Elba’s daughter. “Hocus Pocus 2,” which is directed by Anne Fletcher, is a light-hearted film, but by the time the whole town starts dancing to “One Way or Another,” you might be ready for the story to move on. Even so, it’s a thrilling enough ride for a fall evening. The Motion Picture Association has given the Disney+ release “Hocus Pocus 2” a PG rating for “action, some language, macabre/suggestive comedy.” 104 minutes total running time.
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