“Hocus Pocus 2” enchants viewers

“Hocus Pocus 2” poster. Image courtesy of Disney.

“Hocus Pocus 2” poster. Image courtesy of Disney.

The witches are back! “Hocus Pocus 2” was released Sept. 30  on Disney+, and while the first portion of the movie puts a spell on the audience, it quickly wears off by the second half.

Since the release of the original “Hocus Pocus” bewitched viewers in 1993, the movie has gained a cult-like following. The classic Halloween film runs on cable every year and has an ever-growing fan base of both younger viewers and adults.

“Hocus Pocus 2” began production in Dec. 2021 and was released just in time for Halloween season. In honor of October starting, it was the perfect time to give it a watch and decide whether or not it stood up to the original.

The opening scene starts with the Sanderson sisters’ origin story. Young Winifred, played by Taylor Henderson, Mary, played by Juju Journey Brener and Sarah, played by Nina Kitchen, are captivating. The mannerisms of the “older” witches are perfectly captured by the younger actresses. The story blends the original “Hocus Pocus” and its sequel together seamlessly. It shows the sisters in Salem circa the 1600’s. It gives the audience a glimpse into why the girls are the way they are.

Without spoiling too much, the movie then transitions into present day with two new additions to the film, Izzy (Belinda Escobedo) and Becca (Whitney Peak). The girls have an interest in magic and a Halloween tradition of having a witchy ritual in the woods. The owner of the magic shop, Gilbert (Sam Richardson), gifts Becca a black flame candle. Her and Izzy unknowingly light it in the ceremony. This brings back the Sanderson sisters who perform “The Witch is Back” (a rendition of the classic Elton John song), before then trying to capture the two girls.

The whole movie revolves around the duo and their estranged friend Cassie (Lilia Buckingham) attempting to stop the sisters from taking revenge on Salem and Mayor Traske (Tony Hale), who is Reverend Traske’s descendant and Cassie’s dad.

Set designer Andrew Baseman’s backdrops enhance the storyline, and it’s more visually pleasing than its predecessor. Director Anne Fletcher follows well in the footsteps of the previous director, copying the comedic nature of the film and the Sanderson sisters’ humor to a T.

The beginning of the movie is almost a replica of the original. Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy do a fantastic job of recapturing their characters’ personalities. It feels like the three actresses are having a genuinely good time reprising their roles as Winifred, Sarah and Mary.

The first half of the film feels nostalgic, and the plot is reminiscent of the prequel. It’s very interesting to watch, and there’s a lot of suspense. The Sanderson sisters even attempt to steal Izzy and Becca’s souls while they lead them to a nearby Walgreens. Although the movie’s modern touches and Gen-Z language spoil some of the nostalgia. The lingo turns a bit tacky quickly and feels unnatural at times.

One factor that the original did much better was character development. The new characters in the movie lack personality and backstory. In the original, they dedicated time to making the characters like-able and interesting to watch, which wasn’t present in this movie. The only character background we get from this movie regards Cassie ditching Izzy and Becca for her new popular boyfriend. The three girls are boring to watch and drag the movie down somewhat.

Another vital thing missing from the movie was the talking cat, Binx. It would’ve been fun to see some version of him helping the main characters save Salem. He was a large part of the original story, and his absence is noticeable.

The second portion of the movie is where the story falls short. The plot seems tedious sometimes and spends too much time dwelling on things that are irrelevant to the storyline.  The comedy is little cliche, but they managed to make it work and feel very camp. The younger characters were mostly put on the backburner, with the exception of Gilbert. If more time was dedicated to them, the story wouldn’t have seemed so rushed.

The ending makes up for the second half, when Becca utilizes her witch powers and reunites the Sanderson sisters once and for all. It’s a bittersweet ending, but very satisfying. I even found myself rooting for the Sandersons despite all of their evil antics.

Overall, the movie was cheesy but still very enjoyable to watch, and if you’re a fan of the original, it’s worth it to see the Sanderson’s story continue in “Hocus Pocus 2.”