If you were a kid in the Nineties it was quite impossible not to be charmed by the despicable Sanderson Sisters in Kenny Ortega’s Hocus Pocus. Its sequel arrives twenty-nine years later, with a female director at the helm of this production. Dancer, actress and choreographer Anne Fletcher — also known for directing films like Step Up — brings the three eccentric witches back to Salem in Hocus Pocus 2.
The American supernatural comedy produced by Walt Disney Pictures — that will be available on Disney+ — allows a grand return to the silver screen of Bette Midler as Winifred, the oldest of the siblings and leader of the coven; Kathy Najimy as Mary, the middle sister with an enhanced sense of smell; Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah, the Sanderson gifted with a hypnotic siren call; Doug Jones as zombie Billy Butcherson, a former lover of Winifred that she poisoned when she caught him cheating with her younger sister. These iconic characters raise from the dead when a virgin, on her 16th birthday, lights Black Flame Candle and resurrects the sorceresses looking for revenge.
Hocus Pocus 2 keeps audiences pending for the arrival of the iconic Midler-Parker-Najimy trio, that makes its entrance 28 minutes in the movie. The delay is caused by a lengthy premise where we see the children version of Winnie (Taylor Paige Henderson), Mary (Nina Kitchen) and Sarah (Juju Journey Brener) and also get introduced to another trio of adolescent women who have a fascination for magic. Becca (Whitney Peak) is a teenager who has a curiosity for white magic and is the one who involuntarily summons the Sanderson Sisters; Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) is her quirky best friend; Cassie Traske (Lilia Buckingham) is a popular classmate and daughter of the Mayor of Salem (Tony Hale). Mr. Jefry Traske has an uncanny resemblance to the Reverend who tormented the Salem sisters during their time, which will give cause for havoc. Another new character who is influential in summoning the ravenous witches is Gilbert (Sam Richardson), the owner of the Olde Salem Magic Shoppe.
There is a moment of déjà vu, when Winifred, Mary and Sarah are on stage and perform an enchanting song. In the 1993 film it was the legendary I Put A Spell On You, whereas this time it’s One Way Or Another. The only actual element of novelty in the film is how modern adolescents represent an entire new frame of mind that advocates for inclusivity. Youngsters today are woke. Teenagers on screen are the ambassadors of conscientious ideas that fight discrimination, bullying and patriarchy.
It is up to three representatives of the new youth to stop the ravenous witches from causing permanent destruction to their town before dawn on All Hallow’s Eve. At the end of the day the feel good message will show how not only the heroes in the story are united, but also the villains care about each other dearly. As a character says: “magic has a way of uniting things that ought to be together.”
Although the script by Jen D’Angelo plays it safe by replicating many of the circumstances of the original film, it contains ultramodern instants of amusement. These occasions of entertainment are triggered by the way the 17th century witches confront the 21st century evolutions, from the “modern apothecary” Walgreens, to the “advanced model of brooms” epitomised by robotic vacuum cleaners.
Even though this sequel operation turned out to be inessential, Hocus Pocus 2 is a diverting blockbuster to enjoy with caramel apples and pumpkin pies. And if all l good things come in threes, one cannot help but wonder if we should expect a Hocus Pocus 3.
Final Grade: B-