(If this is your first time on this blog, I ask you to read my About page first! Thanks!)
As everyone knows, I wasn’t a fan of the first Hocus Pocus. I didn’t grow up with it so I have no nostalgia for it and when I finally watched it for the first time, I thought it was such a bad movie! So I was not at all excited when a sequel to the film was announced! I figured this would just be more of the same. Was I right? Or did I actually enjoy this film? Read on for my review of Hocus Pocus 2!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
Directed by Anne Fletcher, the film begins in the mid-1600s in Salem, Massachusetts, where we see the three young Sanderson sisters living together. Winifred, Mary, and Sarah, played by Taylor Paige Henderson, Nina Kitchen, and Juju Brener, respectively, love each other very much and get along as you’d expect sisters to. However, after Winifred refuses to marry a boy from her town in a match arranged by their Reverend Traske, played by Tony Hale, she is threatened with being separated from her sisters. To escape their separation, the three sisters run away into the nearby forest where they come upon a witch known as the Mother Witch, played by Hannah Waddingham. She gives them a magic book to learn spells while warning them against using a particular spell that grants ultimate power. This is the origin story of how the Sanderson sisters became witches in the first place.
We then transition to the present-day where we meet a high-schooler, Becca, played by Whitney Peak. It’s her 16th birthday and she’s happy to celebrate it with one of her best friends, Izzy, played by Belissa Escobedo. They have one more best friend, Cassie, played by Lilia Buckingham, but they currently have a strained relationship with her since she’s recently been spending a lot of time with her annoyingly idiotic boyfriend, Mike, played by Froy Gutierrez, and his friends instead of with them. Because of that, Becca didn’t invite Cassie to celebrate her birthday with her and Cassie feels that Becca and Izzy don’t like her anymore.
Anyway, Becca has always been a fan of witches, witchcraft lore, and spooky things like that, so she and Izzy spend a lot of time at the local magic/gift shop run by Gilbert the Great, played by Sam Richardson.
Gilbert spends much of his time telling the local kids about the witch history of Salem as well as the history of the famous Sanderson Sisters who, legend has it, were brought back to life after a particular candle was lit by a virgin.
He gives Becca a candle for her birthday which she and Izzy take to the nearby forest that night to perform a ritual. Doing “witchy” rituals for fun was something the two of them (along with Cassie) used to do all the time, so it’s a bit bittersweet that Cassie isn’t there. Anyway, after Becca lights the candle, she notices that the flame doesn’t go out. Soon enough, the ground starts to crack open and out pop Winifred, Mary, and Sarah, played again by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker, respectively.
Watching from a distance, Becca and Izzy realize that the candle Gilbert gave them must have been one of those candles that bring the witches back and since Becca is a virgin and the full moon is out, the spell was cast.
The witches spot the girls and want to eat them to retain their youthful looks, but the girls try to trick them into thinking they’re actually older women made to look young due to the products found in Walgreens. The witches demand to be taken to Walgreens wherein they drink all the creams they can (yuck!). They soon realize that the girls tricked them and head out in search of them.
The girls have now run away to the gift shop and inform Gilbert about what’s happened. To their surprise, he is fully aware of this as this was all his doing! He purposefully gave Becca the candle to bring back the Sanderson Sisters as he’s been a huge fan of them ever since he saw them as a kid during the events of the first film.
The girls are like, “Gilbert, you’re a crazy idiot!”, but the Sanderson Sisters soon arrive. They find their spellbook which Gilbert has been keeping and send Gilbert on an errand to find ingredients they need to perform their spell of ultimate power.
They also lock the girls in the cellar below the gift shop while they go searching for Mayor Traske, the descendant of Reverend Traske, also played by Tony Hale, to seek revenge. The mayor is also Cassie’s father, so the girls try to escape to warn her and her dad. They end up getting out due to magic because Becca is actually a witch.
The girls head to Cassie’s house right with the Sanderson Sisters right behind them, so they have very little time to explain to Cassie fully what’s going on. Thankfully, she goes along with what she sees. The Sanderson Sisters manage to kidnap Cassie and take her back to the forest with her prompting Becca and Izzy to go after her to rescue her. Meanwhile Gilbert has arrived at the forest with the ingredients he was sent to find along with the zombified body of Billy Butcherson, played again by Doug Jones, who was killed centuries ago by Winifred after he fell for Sarah. The story continued that he and Winifred were lovers, but Billy says they only shared one kiss. Gilbert, wanting to make amends for what he has done, promises Billy that if he helps him stop the Sanderson Sisters, he will tell the truth for future generations that Billy and Winifred weren’t actually ever in love.
Becca and Izzy try to fight off the witches with Becca’s new “witchy” powers, but to no avail. Winifred manages to cast the spell of ultimate power, but it results in her sisters fading away to dust. Incredibly forlorn at the loss of her sisters, Winifred turns to Becca to bring them back since she’s also a witch. Becca casts a reuniting spell that allows Winifred to be with her sisters…by causing her to fade away to dust as well. The Sanderson Sisters are no more.
Because of that, Billy fades away as well. The girls have settled their issues and become friends again. And Gilbert apologizes for what he’s done and the girls very readily forgive him.
And that was Hocus Pocus 2! Honestly, I enjoyed it more than the first film! The witches were by far the most enjoyable part of this film! Seeing Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker, bring their characters back to life after so many years makes it feel like they never left! Had the film focused only on them, I would probably have loved this film more!
That’s not to say that the newcomer girls weren’t great; I actually thought they portrayed their characters really well! I had a bit of an issue with Lilia Buckingham’s performance and character, but I think it’s more the script’s fault since it keeps her away from her friends for a good chunk of the film. The soundtrack was enjoyable (which is something I almost never notice unless a film is a musical) and the effects were believable enough. I especially loved seeing Mary fly about on robotic vacuums!
An interesting plot choice was that the Sanderson Sisters never actually follow through on their revenge plan against Mayor Traske. They try, but are thwarted, and it’s never attempted again. I actually liked that choice, but it just feels like a dropped plot point. I also felt the plot, in general, wasn’t threatening or compelling enough. But again, that’s probably not a bad thing.
My biggest issue was with the character of Gilbert and how he gets away with so much! He straight up deceived Becca into bringing the witches back and putting the entire city of Salem under threat, but he just apologizes after he sees his life being threatened and that’s it. I feel he needed to pay a little bit more for what he did!
So why did I like this more than the first film? Was it because there was less focus on virgins? Was it because I found Becca, Izzy, and Cassie more interesting than Max, Dani, and Allison from the first film? I think it’s because the first film gained such a cult following that the filmmakers knew they couldn’t attempt to do anything more spectacular and accepted their limits. By doing so, they put out a good enough film with what they could and they succeeded in doing just that.
If you’re a fan of the first film, you may be disappointed with this sequel. But if you’re not a fan of the first film, I would recommend giving this a watch. You may end up being surprised!
The next review will be posted on January 3, 2023.