Hocus Pocus 2: Wistfully Witty or Wicked Washout?

7 min read

Three decades after the Sanderson sisters first cast their spell in the cult classic Hocus Pocus, Disney brings fans a highly anticipated sequel. The movie is set in Salem, Massachusetts, and centers around the notorious witch trio's return on Halloween night. The plot revolves around a new group of kids who accidentally awaken the Sanderson sisters by lighting the infamous black flame candle.

The original cast, including Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy, reprise their roles as the wicked Sanderson sisters, bringing a sense of nostalgia to the film. Other key cast members include Whitney Peak, Sam Richardson, Doug Jones, Belissa Escobedo, Lilia Buckingham, and Tony Hale.

As CNN points out, the original film could be considered a curse instead of a blessing, given that stories about witches maintaining their youthfulness and immortality by murdering children may not be as amusing today as they once were. So, is the new Hocus Pocus a wistfully witty taste of nostalgia or a totally evil, washed-out flop?

Nods of Nostalgia

There were quite a few nods to the first Hocus Pocus film, most likely to trigger nostalgia in many viewers. Even the opening scene brings back the familiarity of 1993, with its shadowy witch flying high over Salem, Massachusetts, a town where incidentally, many people literally died after being falsely accused of witchcraft. Interestingly enough, over 1600 people living in Salem in 2022 now consider themselves to be witches.

That very first scene from the first Hocus Pocus film was almost recreated precisely in the opening of the sequel. The shadow of the witch on her broom flies down to the very spot where Thackery Binx resided in Salem back in 1863. A raven flies the very same path across the water and ends up where the orphaned Sanderson sisters were living. Such scenes begin the journey of this film by awakening the older viewers’ yearning for simpler times.

Subpar “90’s-Style” Visual Effects

As IGN points out, although the opening scenes spark the viewers’ sense of sentimentality over Salem, this movie was not filmed in the town or even in the state of Massachusetts. In fact, while at least a tiny bit of the original was filmed on location in Salem, none of the sequel was.

This wouldn’t be an issue for the viewer if the film had more of a “real” feel. Unfortunately, as the IGN article points out, the use of “ugly greenscreen work” gave the film the “feel” of a “Disney Channel Movie of yore” by giving it the appearance of being created with 90’s visual effects, which for some doesn’t work in 2022.

What Should Parents Know About HP2?

While parents may be caught up in the wistfulness of the 90s, there are several things about HP2 that they should be aware of. As Common Sense points out, while this film is considered family-friendly, there is a lot of violence diluted by magical whimsy and teenage instigators.

Although the first film, Hocus Pocus, started out with these three witches literally sucking the life out of a child, the sequel thankfully does not kill off any children. Instead, it features a headless zombie, bullying and name-calling, threats to kill and torture kids, chats about eating children to remain young, and other gory details.

The Sanderson witches set fires, speak of stealing the souls of children, and use blood and bones in their spells. Comedy is used to depict scenes of people being chased, hypnotized, slapped, hit in the head, pushed, beheaded, and attacked with “magic.” The words “Lucifer,” “Satan,” “God,” “virgin,” “kisses,” and “damn” are all included in the script.

What Are Real Viewers Like You Saying?

Like any movie, HP2 is getting mixed reviews online. The Guardian gives it two stars and says, “Bette Midler returns with her child-killing sisters in a disappointingly flat follow-up that tries too hard to soften the villains.”

Although it gives the film a good review overall, CNET states, “As the story progresses, the anarchic energy of earlier scenes gets bogged down in boring Harry Potter-esque action/adventure, complete with dueling lightning blasts in an underlit forest. Possibly thrilling for modern youngsters raised on a diet of more intense peril than the original offered, but it does go on a bit.”

And Rotten Tomatoes gave it just 60% on the Tomatometer and a 55% Audience Score.

But, speaking of audiences, what about regular viewers like you and your family? How did this movie fare among the townsfolk?

Negative Responses

Disappointed – “Gathered to do a family movie night, and we struggled to finish the movie. Nothing compared to the first. Bad acting, sets, and script. Tired of the woke push.” (Common Sense Comments)

Disappointed – “Being such a fan of the original Hocus Pocus, I was extremely excited for the sequel. My daughters (14 & 18) actually wanted to have a movie night with mom to watch this movie. All 3 of us were disappointed. By the way, I am 45 just so you know all of our ages. It started out ok showing the sisters as children, but the storyline from that point on just went downhill. The characters were all lacking in confidence and just strength as characters.” (Common Sense Comments)

What a Disappointment! – “Waited 29 years for this movie! What a disappointment from Disney! Childhood memories ruined!” (Common Sense Comments)

Changed the Whole Premise of the Story – “This was a big disappointment for me. There was CGI instead of real props. The costumes looked cheap. The music was not original and irritating. The original storyline is basically non-existent. Instead of being the villains in a comical way, the witches were the heroes, without the comedy. As a big fan of Hocus Pocus, I would recommend if you want to watch for nostalgia, go ahead, but it's not worth a second viewing.” (Common Sense Comments)

Just look at some of the scripted words from this "cute little movie.” – “Once I suck all the life from all the children I will be young and beautiful again.”

“They are called the daughters of darkness.”

“Their spell book was given to them by the devil. It is bound by human skin.”

“They call Satan master.”

“They summons all the children to their house to partake in their essence of life.” (Facebook Comments)

Positive Responses

Not what I was expecting – “I personally enjoyed it, although I was expecting that it would be similar to the original, or maybe a carry=on from where it left off. It seemed to be more about the three girls that are in the movie and not actually the three witches.” (Facebook Comments)

It was good but definitely different than the first. – “It’s more updated but they do have clips of the 1993 one in it.” (Facebook Comments)

I enjoyed it. – “It was funny and very family-friendly. It ended on a nicer note. IDK, it was just different.” (Facebook Comments)

I enjoyed it. – “But I recommend watching the first and then the second. They use the same spells for things. But I wouldn’t have noticed had I not rewatched the first.” (Facebook Comments)

It was cute. – “Definitely not as good as the original, but still a fun watch. Some parts were a bit too cheesy, but overall, I enjoyed it for what it was.” (Facebook Comments)

Better Than I Thought It Would Be – “I thought the movie would be a flop, but it was surprisingly entertaining. Although it doesn't have the same magic as the original, it was still a fun watch for Halloween. The cast was great, and the Sanderson sisters brought back so many memories.” (Common Sense Comments)

So, Is It Worth the Watch?

In conclusion, while the Hocus Pocus sequel may not be perfect, it certainly has its moments of nostalgia, humor, and fun. Some viewers will enjoy the callbacks to the original film and the return of the beloved Sanderson sisters, while others may find the plot and special effects lacking.

For those who are fans of the original Hocus Pocus or simply looking for a lighthearted Halloween movie, it may be worth giving the sequel a chance. However, if you're expecting a film that captures the same magic and charm as the first, you might be disappointed.

Ultimately, the decision to watch Hocus Pocus 2 will depend on personal preferences, nostalgia, and the desire for some light-hearted witchy fun this Halloween season. Just be prepared for a mix of old and new elements and remember that, like the original, it's a cult classic that may not be everyone's cup of potion.

ally if it receives controversial reviews, perhaps watch it yourself first so you can make your own informed decision. As for HP2, perhaps it was both - a witty and wistful washout? Or maybe it was just what you expected. Let us know what you think about it in the comments.

Hocus Pocus 2 courtesy of IMDb