Hocus Pocus was released on July 16th, 1993, in the middle of summer so as to avoid competition with Disney’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Needless to say, a Halloween movie released three months before October wasn’t the smartest choice and the end result caused Disney to lose around $16 million. However, Hocus Pocus would gain a strong and steady following through annual Halloween airings and home video sales, making about $1 million in DVD sales each October.
It seems that Disney has always been a little reluctant to develop a sequel and was more open to remaking Hocus Pocus, something they almost did a few years ago with Scarlett Lacey writing the script. Thankfully, Disney+ has provided Disney with the perfect opportunity to make more “risky” decisions, such as greenlighting a sequel to a 29-year-old movie that took decades to make its money back.
The Sinister Sanderson Sisters
Much like the original, Hocus Pocus 2 will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who enjoy the first movie will probably enjoy this sequel. It has the same campy flair and one or two surprise musical numbers.
Midler, Najimy, and Parker step into the shoes of Winifred, Mary and Sarah, and it’s almost as if they never left them. The devilishly delightful trio are just as weirdly wonderful as they were in the 1993 film, and with their sisters brought forward from supporting to leading roles, they’ve been given a chance to explore more of their character’s personalities, such as real clarification as to whether Winnie actually likes her sisters or not.
In Hocus Pocus, Bette Midler stole the show and made Winifred Sanderson arguably the most remembered sister from the movie. While Kathy Najimy’s Mary (my personal favourite) and Sarah Jessica Parker’s Sarah were wonderful and hilarious, they were treated as mere shadows to their eldest sister. Hocus Pocus 2 doesn’t flip the switch too much, but Mary and Sarah have been given more agency, making them less of a shadow and more independent and developed characters.
The Fledgling Witches
Unfortunately for the Sanderson Sisters, they are no longer the only witches in town because we are introduced to Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), two aspiring witches who accidentally summon the Sandersons after being given a new black flame candle from Gilbert (Sam Richardson), the owner of the Olde Salem Magic Shoppe.
Whitney Peak, who is no stranger to the world of witches, having already played one in Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, steps into her first leading role, joined by Belissa Escobedo as Izzy. I have nothing bad to say about them because they both shine as bright as their seasoned co-stars. Even when working with a “so-so” script, Peak and Escobedo manage to deliver even the worst lines with their well-timed and often humourous line deliveries.
The Foolish Mortals
Sam Richardson plays Sanderson-superfan Gilbert, who is tasked with digging up Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones). Despite feeling like Gilbert didn’t need as much screen time as he has, Richardson is so-well cast in the role that he made what could have easily been an unbearable character likeable and funny. As for Billy Butcherson, all I need to say is that you won’t realise how much you’ve missed him.
And then there’s Emmy-winner Tony Hale playing the duel roles of Reverent Traske and his descendent Mayor Traske. Hale, must have attended the Ryan Reynolds School of Acting because he is very good at playing the same role in everything, and Hocus Pocus 2 is no exception, although his small amount of screen time doesn’t give him a chance to show off his comedic chops.
Room for One More?
We’ve covered the main performances, but is Hocus Pocus 2 any good? I’m delighted to say that it is! It’s a fun and worthy successor to the Halloween classic, but it’s not without its faults. For instance, it carries that now-familiar TV Movie quality that many Disney+ movies seem to have – a little funny considering that the first movie was originally set to be a Disney Channel Original before it was given a theatrical release. The ending also feels a little abrupt, and the set-up for a sequel could have been a little more enticing.
The absence of the original stars, Omri Katz, Thora Birch and Vinessa Shaw, also weigh heavy on the film down, and they are each greatly missed. Hopefully, they will return (with Binx too) in another sequel. But the appearances of the late Gary and Penny Marshall, whose cameo’s from the first movie are featured, were a wonderful addition.
I hope I’m wrong, but I’m suspecting that Hocus Pocus 2 will land a rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and if it does, I implore you all to give it a chance because it’s harmless good fun and far better than I was expecting it to be.
Hocus Pocus 2 is directed by Anne Fletcher and will be available to stream on Disney+ from September 30th.