‘Hocus Pocus 2’ is a bewitchingly good time

David Matos, Arts & Life Editor

Illustration by (Amanda Riha)

The Halloween cult classic “Hocus Pocus” captured the hearts of many millennials and members of Generation Z who grew up with the infamous witches, the Sanderson sisters. When Disney confirmed in 2020 that Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy will reprise their roles in a sequel to the 1993 film, fans questioned if they could recreate the magic of the original for a whole new generation.

After 29 years and a pandemic later, Disney+ released “Hocus Pocus 2” on Sept. 30. The contemporary campy comedy, set in Salem, Massachusetts, follows two teenagers, Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), who accidentally bring back the child-hungry sister trio for another night of mayhem and witchery.

Similarly to the previous film, the Disney+ original starts with a glimpse of the Sanderson sisters’ past, before they got axed for, well, being witches in 17th-century Salem. There’s also the whole eating children to stay young thing, but I digress.

This time, however, we’re reintroduced to the Sanderson sisters as children themselves, before they discovered the world of magic and broomsticks. Taylor Paige Henderson plays young Winifred “Winnie” Sanderson. Her comedic betrayal of the headstrong leader was a standout and a marvelous reintroduction to the fan-favorite buck-toothed redhead.

Earnestly, though the backstory of the origins of the bond between the iconic set of witches was plentiful, I wish we would’ve gotten to see more of the young Sanderson sisters. With the possibility of a third film being teased in a post-credit scene, the young Sandersons coming back to reprise their roles isn’t unlikely.

After 300, two virgins and two lit black-flamed candles later, “Hocus Pocus 2” doesn’t waste any time reestablishing the over-the-top and monstrous Sanderson sisters into modern-day Salem.

In the second film, the Sanderson sisters all revert to their comedic antics. Their humorous personality traits are brilliantly displayed once again, meeting every expectation from the actresses. From Mary Sanderson’s (Najimy) failed attempts to appease Winnie (Midler), Sarah Sanderson’s (Parker) flirtatious, seemingly unaware persona or Winnie, the cruelly intelligent leader, any criticism of the film was not in the hands of the three antagonists.

One scene that particularly stood out to me was one when Izzy and Becca tricked the Sanderson sisters into entering Walgreens, suggesting that the witches would find children’s souls already trapped inside cosmetics they could purchase, instead of having to hunt them down themselves.

Witnessing the sisters from the Salem witch trials make sense of modern-day technologies was what made the original film excellent, and this scene was full of it. All three of the sisters believe passing through an automatic door is connected to having some sort of power, Mary mistakes a raspberry face mask for a face of a child and the sisters discover what a selfie is for the first time. The scene did a great job of recapturing the magic of the original film, down to Mary trading in her flying vacuum cleaner for a pair of Roombas.

Though this scene is great, it also embarks my biggest criticism of the film: there wasn’t enough connection between the witches and the contemporary world. The reason this scene sticks out is because it’s one of the few moments where the witches aren’t running amok (amok amok) through the forbidden forest or outside of the local fair. We do get a brief moment with Winnie thinking a woman was trapped inside of an Amazon Alexa later in the film, but I wanted more of that.

However, one of the most entertaining scenes of the whole film was the inevitable dance number with Midler singing a cover of Blondie’s 1978 hit “One Way Or Another.” From the theatrics and seemingly effortless choreography from both the Sanderson sisters and their tranced audience, I was hooked. As a fan of the original film’s “I Put a Spell on You” scene, I was overjoyed to see a new, and just-as-catchy rendition.

“Hocus Pocus 2” doesn’t hold up to the original, which I would classify as a perfect film. However, it’s entertaining, fun and campy, which is all I can ask for from Disney. I loved seeing the original actresses of the Sanderson sisters reprise their roles and Doug Jones come back as Billy Butcherson, the undead ex-lover of Winnie and Sarah. Though I don’t see it being a must-see every Halloween, I’m still happy it exists.