Review: 'Hocus Pocus 2' will cast a spell on those already entranced by the original...but that's about it
I'm not sure exactly what the allure of Disney's "Hocus Pocus" is, other than it is a dearly beloved Halloween event for many. Originally released back in 1993, the film, starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as three enchanting witches, was a box office dud. And yet, it has become an undeniably loved cult-classic, and for its coven of fans, a must-see yearly Halloween-time ritual.
Not only did the first film do poorly, it took quite the beating from critics. The legendary Roger Ebert said of that first film:
"Of the film's many problems, the greatest may be that all three witches are thoroughly unpleasant. They don't have personalities; they have behavior patterns and decibel levels. A good movie inspires the audience to subconsciously ask, "Give me more!" The witches in this one inspired my silent cry, "Get me out of here!"
As I often do, I happen to agree with Mr. Ebert's assessment. "Hocus Pocus," for me, was a throw-away, and not even the best Disney film featuring a witch (that would be the classic 1971 film, "Bedknobs & Broomsticks," starring Angela Lansbury). Why or how it is popular, or that it is even considered re-watchable is strange magic to me.
Needless to say, "Hocus Pocus 2" (now streaming on Disney+) is more of the same. If you love "Hocus Pocus" I don't suspect there's any reason why you won't enjoy the sequel. The three Sanderson Sisters are back, brought back into being by some young gals, with the help of a Salem magician (the always game Sam Richardson). Tony Hale is along as a descendant of someone from the witches' past. Winifred (Midler), Sarah (Parker) and Mary (Najimy) need some adjusting to this new world - it is nearly 30 years since the last film after all - but the basic plot, or lack thereof, is basically the same as before.
"Hocus Pocus 2" can be considered fan-service for those that conjured it into being...it is true that the love from the fanbase is the sole reason Disney even decided to greenlight this sequel. But in today's day-and-age, "Hocus Pocus 2" is a transparent attempt to fill their streaming platform with "content," a word that has replaced "entertainment" ever so slyly in recent years. It is content, I guess, but it is far from entertainment.
Not that this review will sway those die-hards, who already are reading this open-jawed after discovering that no, I didn't like the first one either. I don't get it, never have, and I don't see many redeeming things to say about it.
But hey, you may love it. For me, I'm cool if they shelf the Sanderson Sisters for another 30, 40, or 100 years, after once again showing they aren't much more than - to borrow from Roger Ebert - "a confusing cauldron in which there is great activity but little progress, and a lot of hysterical shrieking."
Genre: Family, Fantasy, Comedy.
Run Time: 1 hour 44 minutes.
Starring: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Belissa Escobedo, Whitney Peak, Lilia Buckingham, Sam Richardson, Tony Hale, Doug Jones, Froy Gutierrez, Hannah Waddingham.
Directed by Anne Fletcher ("Dumplin'," "Hot Pursuit," "The Guilt Trip," "The Proposal," "27 Dresses," "Step Up").
"Hocus Pocus 2" is available to stream on Disney+ on Friday, September 30th, 2022.
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