For many of us, the beginning of October marks a distinct change in our behaviour: ordering hot lattes instead of cold brews, bringing our coats and scarves out of retirement, spending much later nights at Lau but, most importantly, switching on our TVs for the annual rewatch of 1993’s Hocus Pocus. The familiar faces of the Sanderson sisters and the spooky yet quaint nature of the film undoubtedly provide us with the familiar autumnal feeling we crave every pumpkin season - a feeling which the sequel to this Halloween classic fails to achieve.
The release of Hocus Pocus 2 came out on Sep. 30, just in time to kickstart us into the Halloween mood. A creepily revamped Disney castle lit below a bewitching full moon transitions into the early lives of the Sanderson sisters in 16th century Salem. The young portrayals of Winifred, Sarah, and Mary were spot-on, copying the adult witches’ mannerisms to a tee. Young Winifred flawlessly executes Bette Midler’s behaviour, complete with her snarled tooth smile and her quick-witted, unapologetic attitude. Similarly, Mary’s unmistakable growl and Sarah’s unfortunate ditziness shine through, even when portrayed by actresses born decades later than their celebrity predecessors.
Unfortunately, the same appreciation cannot be extended to the other major characters in the film. After being introduced to the young lives of the Sanderson sisters, we are transported to modern-day Salem, full of Gen Z high school students and of course, teenage girl drama. This is where the film begins to lose the cozy and nostalgic cathartic feeling. We follow the two main characters, Becca and Izzy, as they celebrate Becca’s 16th birthday in the Forbidden Woods. Inevitably, they light the infamous black flame candle, inviting the Sanderson sisters back into the story and the 21st century.
Director Anne Fletcher finds clever ways to develop the story into the current time period, such as deploying Swiffers and Roombas instead of brooms as the witches’ modes of transportation. Other attempts to modernise the plotline, however, leave a somewhat sour taste with the inclusion of cringey jokes and an overly-clichéd portrayal of teenage girl drama and friendship. In fact, the downfall of this sequel rests
on the predictable and boring nature of the Credit: Disney+
modern-day plot that tries too hard to deduce a moral theme from something which should otherwise be a simple and relaxing October flick.
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy all make iconic comebacks in this version as the Sandersons, perfectly emulating the characters they acted as almost three decades earlier. Due to their successful performances in the film, however, I was hoping for an encore (or at least new cover) of their classic “I Put a Spell on You,” but was sadly disappointed. The musicality of the number they sang instead, Blondie’s “One Way or Another,” did grow on me but I was left wishing for a rendition of their previous classic. By restoring the iconic number, this could have been a perfect oppurtunity for Fletcher to reignite that nostalgic feeling in the audience, one that we all expected to receive but unfortunately could not.
Aside from a concluding plot twist to keep us on our toes, the majority of the film moved unexcitedly and predictably. The movie ends on a happy note, relaying the overall message of sisterhood and the importance of working together. This attempt, however, proves ineffective as the film tries to turn a lighthearted, seasonal classic into a coming-of-age film. The unifying theme of sisterhood should have been left to the Sanderson sisters themselves, rather than attempting to create a second generation girl-power trio in the Gen Z characters. As a result, Fletcher overexhausts the cliché and somehow manages to keep the predictability of the film while also discarding the warm nostalgia that is supposed to accompany it. Unfortunately for viewers, the warm-toned, spooky yet reassuring experience of watching Hocus Pocus does not translate to the sequel. We are instead met with a subpar, only somewhat-Halloween-feeling movie that reminds us yet again that a sequel can never live up to the prestige of its original title.
Madeleine Callaway is a junior in the College majoring in English and minoring in Art.