Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, and Sarah Jessica Parker in 'Hocus Pocus 2'.

‘Hocus Pocus 2’ Casts a Spell of Nostalgia and Delight

4/5 black flame candles.

For many millennials, Disney’s 1993 Halloween comedy Hocus Pocus is an indelible part of our childhoods. Which is unexpected, as when the film was released it was met with mixed reviews and a middling box office haul. But Hocus Pocus soon gained a second life thanks to seasonal airings on the Disney Channel and ABC Family, and the film quickly grew a cult following, becoming a Halloween staple and fan-favorite. Now, those millennials who grew up with the film now have kids of their own, and the Disney reboot machine has finally given us Hocus Pocus 2, 29 years later.

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Hocus Pocus 2 brings us back to Salem, where a new group of teens unwittingly conjure the wicked Sanderson sisters by lighting the black flame candle on Halloween night. High schoolers Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) are celebrating Becca’s 16th birthday as they always have, with a spooky séance in the woods. But they are doing so without their other bestie Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), who has ditched her friends to spend more time with her doofus boyfriend Mike (Froy Gutierrez). After the girls light the black flame candle, the Sanderson sisters, Mary (Kathy Najimy), Winifred (Bette Midler), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), return in full force, ready to wreak havoc on Salem.

Directed by Anne Fletcher (The Proposal), Hocus Pocus 2 knows exactly what its core audience wants to see: bickering witches, impromptu musical numbers, and confusion over modern technology. And the film delivers in spades, thanks to the terrific performances of the witchy trio. All the actresses have said in past interviews that they would love to reprise their roles, and it’s clear that everyone is having a blast. The trio’s chemistry remains delightfully intact, as they encounter the terrors of Walgreens, Roombas, and smart phones. Even zombie boyfriend Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones) returns to get in on the fun.

The film also features welcome newcomers in Sam Richardson (Ted Lasso), who plays the owner of the local magic shop, and Tony Hale (Veep) as the Halloween-loving mayor of Salem and Cassie’s dad. Hannah Waddingham also makes a delightful cameo as Mother Witch, who inspires the Sanderson sisters to begin their magical journey.

Hocus Pocus 2 gives fans the jokes and references they came for, but it also takes the time to give the Sandersons some much needed character development. An opening flashback to their childhood shows the importance of the sisters’ bond, and Salem’s rejection of their uniqueness. This thread adds an unexpected emotional depth to the film, that pours over into the supporting characters. Even Winnie’s spell book gets a personality of its own. All these additions elevate the film from an exercise in nostalgia, making for a solid movie that stands on its own.

There’s so much to like about Hocus Pocus 2, which smartly balances the memory of its predecessor while expanding on the series mythology. It offers a seasonal family-friendly delight, which is sure to become a Halloween staple for years to come. So go ahead and grab your broomstick, your Swiffer, and your Roombas, and be prepared to run amok, amok, amok.

(featured image: Walt Disney Studios)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.