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Review of Hocus Pocus 2

I watched Hocus Pocus 2 right after watching Hocus Pocus for our Watching Wyrd podcast on witches.

The movie opens in Salem Village on Halloween in 1653. Winifred (Taylor Henderson), Mary (Nina Kitchen), and Sarah (Juju Brener) are mischievous teenagers dabbling in the outer fringes of the occult. Winnie just turned sixteen and has received her occult powers, as all witches do when they turn that age. Even though what the Sanderson Sisters engage is in no more evil than modern children playing with a Ouija board, the Puritans in the town get their knickers in a bunch. The town cleric, Pastor Traske, is willing to forgive the sisters of their sins if Winifred marries his son. She refuses so the Sanderson sisters are banished from Salem and hide out in the woods where their hatred for Salem grows along with their witchy abilities.

Jump to Salem on Halloween in 2023. Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), two friends who also dabble in witchcraft, are preparing for the evening’s festivities. They have an awkward encounter with their friend Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), who used to be part of their coven but are now estranged. While Cassie’s father, Mayor Traske (who is an ancestor of the infamous Pastor Traske), is overseeing the traditional Salem Halloween festival, she’s planning to have an illegal party at the house… but didn’t invite Becca and Izzy. Instead, the girls go to the Old Salem Magic Shop, a black magic gift shop that contains artifacts from the Sanderson Sister, including the one-eyed spell book. Gilbert (Sam Richardson), the proprietor and Sanderson Sisters expert, gives the girls one of his imitation black candles that he sells to tourists.

Becca and Izzy go into woods to manifest their skills, only to find out the black candle is real. The girls soon discover that Gilbert wanted them to resurrect the Sanderson Sisters. He had seen them in 1993, became enamored of them, and, after their demise, went to the house and found the one-eyed book, which taught him how to make the candle to bring them back. Because Becca turned sixteen that day, she is developing her own witchy talents, so she and Izzy set off to stop the Sanderson Sisters.

Winifred wants to become the most powerful witch ever so that she and her sisters don’t make the same mistake as they did in 1993, which the one-eyed book tries to warn her is dangerous. Despite the warning, Winifred must conjure up a potion that uses the blood of her enemy, Pastor Traske. Winifred forces Gilbert to help her gather what is needed for the potion or forfeit his life. Gilbert digs up Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones) and convinces Billy to help him gather the necessary ingredients, duping Billy into thinking the potion will banish the sisters for eternity.

Becca and Izzy now face off against the Sanderson Sisters in a contest of good vs. evil.

I had high expectations for this movie but was sorely disappointed. One of the reasons the original Hocus Pocus was such a success was because of the relationship between Max, Dani, and Alison. You could feel the sibling love and ribbing between Max and Dani, and the bond of friendship with Alison. The friendship between Becca, Izzy, and Cassie seems forced. I didn’t enjoy the characters and particularly care what happened to them.

The same is true of the Sanderson Sisters. Don’t get me wrong. Midler, Najimy, and Parker are great actresses, but in this movie the sisters did not have the same dynamic amongst themselves as in the first. It seems forced. In addition, near the end of the movie, the writers made changes to Winifred’s character that were not in keeping with how she was portrayed in the first movie. I understand that the writers were trying to end these movies on a positive note, but for me the changes detracted from the movie.

There are scenes that are reminiscent of those from the first movie in which the Sanderson Sisters are trying to adjust to the modern world, only in this case it’s thirty years in the future rather than three hundred. I especially enjoyed the scene when Becca convinces the sisters they don’t need potions to be beautiful and takes them to the beauty aisle of Walgreens, and when the sisters enter the costume contest.

The best part of the movie is the performances done by the actresses playing the teenage Sanderson Sisters. These three brilliantly nailed the mannerisms and speech inflections of the characters. I enjoyed them more than the older sisters. If they’re as good in other movies as they were in Hocus Pocus 2, they have great careers ahead of them.

In summary, Hocus Pocus 2 is no where near as good as the first one, but it’s not horrible. There are some humorous scenes as well as few nods to the original movie, and the friendship between Gilbert and Billy is hilarious. I recommend watching it but keep your expectations low.

I’ll give Hocus Pocus 2 three out of five witches hats.

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