Review: ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ pleases fans, but can’t beat the original classic

It was 29 years ago that the Sanderson Sisters; Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary (Kathy Najimy) cast a spell over the world for the first time in “Hocus Pocus.”

‘Hocus Pocus 2’ was released on September 30, earning nearly double the Rotten Tomatoes rating of its predecessor. The original cast returned for the sequel.

As for the movie itself, it starts out a bit boring. When you meet the witches, it becomes much more interesting.

The film begins in a 1500s village in Salem, Massachusetts. It’s Winifred’s 16th birthday and her sisters made her Jell-O. It gives comic relief to a stressful start with arguments, jostling. Winifred is terribly rude to her sisters, as always. It’s only at the end that we see how much Winifred’s sisters really mean to her.

After Winifred receives her spell book (named “Book”), she commits arson. Midler’s voice hasn’t aged a day with her signature call from her beloved spellbook.

The passage from the past to the present was quite brutal. The song during the transition is good, but it doesn’t really match what’s going on at that time. Right after that, the high school drama is kind of boring because that’s not what the movie is about. At this point, we don’t know the current whereabouts of the Sanderson sisters unless you’ve seen the first movie and know they’re “dead.”

The film; post-transition follows Becca (Whitney Peak) and her friend Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) on Becca’s 16th birthday. Their first stop after school is at the magic shop.

Along the way, they meet Mayor Traske (Tony Hale). Traske is described as a nice guy and one thing he does really well is his fake laugh. This laugh lasts only about thirty seconds, but it is very contagious. What seems just a little makes you laugh because he can’t stop laughing. However, Traske happens to be a descendant of the priest who expelled Winifred from Salem.

We also meet Gilbert (Sam Richardson), who can be seen as both protagonist and antagonist. His character is probably the most interesting and changes the most throughout the film. Gilbert is also the reason I think there will be a “Hocus Pocus 3”, whatever that may sound like.

After Becca and Izzy light the candle in the forest, the Sanderson sisters cross the ground, dividing the ground where they rested. 29 years later, none of the Sanderson sisters look older.

Photo courtesy of Matt Kennedy/Disney Enterprises. Left to right: The Sanderson sisters – Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), Winifred (Bette Midler) and Mary (Kathy Najimy) – are confused by everyday objects at Walgreens.

We get more comedy when the Sanderson sisters see what the real world looks like now. The first stop is Walgreens and we see what people might think if they had been dead for 300 years. The scene is hilarious because they’ve never seen automated doors, lotions, or other common things at a Walgreens. The Sanderson Sisters create a comedic trio while exploring modern technology.

What disappointed me the most was the choice of song they made Bette Midler sing. The first film featured Midler performing “I Put a Spell on You” by Screaming Jay Hawkins. This time it was “One Way or Another” by Blondie. It’s not that Midler’s rendition of the song was bad, but “I Put a Spell on You” was iconic and it was just right. It was a step forward musically.

“I Put a Spell on You” also makes more sense because it literally casts a spell over the citizens of the town, whether it’s the original where it has them dancing or the sequel where it has them find the mayor. Even though the song fits the scene, Midler’s version of “I Put a Spell on You” is such a classic that it could and should have returned for the sequel.

Overall the movie was good, but there are only a few sequels that could go along with the original. “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” take the cake when it comes to originals and dynamic sequels.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t put “Hocus Pocus” and “Hocus Pocus 2” on this list. It was still good, and fans will probably like the movie. However, I’m going to disagree with Rotten Tomatoes and put “Hocus Pocus” above “Hocus Pocus 2”.

“Hocus Pocus 2” is available to stream exclusively on Disney+.

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