Hocus Pocus 2 - A Witchy Review
It's the spooky season, and that means time for scary stories and Halloween fun. You might be wondering, "Why is a romance author posting movie reviews in her blog?" Because I love stories, and I love talking about stories. This week's blog is about one of my favorite stories.
I saw the original Hocus Pocus in theaters with my aunt when I was ten, and I thought it was a blast. That being said, I can count the number of times I've rewatched it on one hand. It was a fun movie. A goofy, spooky, popcorn flick. That's all it needed to be, and I was happy with that.
Fast forward twenty-nine years to the debut of the sequel. I wasn't among the truly excited fans clamoring for more Sanderson Sisters and Doug Jones zombies. If life had gone on indefinitely without a sequel, I probably wouldn't even have noticed. But, leave it to Disney to see an opportunity for revisiting old stories and run with it.
As my partner and I sat down to watch Hocus Pocus 2, my only hope was that it honored the spirit of the original without trying to turn it into something it wasn't. Hocus Pocus has a strong following, but it never was a box office tour de force. It's a campy, silly movie with PG-rated dirty humor, one ditzy blonde witch, another one highly motivated by food, and Bette Midler.
What Hocus Pocus really had going for it — in my mind, at least — was a great story. It was rich in spirit and had excellent, interesting plot with wonderful, original characters. That's what I really wanted to see in the sequel: a story with the same witchy tone and spirited heart.
And I was pleased to see exactly that.
The creators behind Hocus Pocus 2 really tapped into the things that made the first movie fun and memorable. The sequel is infused with the same campy humor and playful Halloween tone, with a few new and modern updates.
I love the characters of the "bully" and the "infuriating adult antagonist", neither of whom are really the tropes you think they're going to be when first introduced, nor are they one-dimensional characters. The "bully" is a well-meaning boy who simply misunderstood social cues, and when presented with that perspective, quickly understands he must communicate better. The "antagonizing adult" is a dorky dad whose attempts at capitalizing on Salem's Halloween spirit are goofy, but innocent, and seem to actually satisfy a lot of people, He's got a nostalgic love for a certain candy maker and all he wants for himself this Halloween is one of her candied apples. The kids in the movie definitely think he's a bit lame, but he's never mean-spirited, and he fills his role in the plot just perfectly.
One thing I deeply appreciate is that the casting crew and directors let the three lead actresses look their age. There was no attempt to digitally de-age them; their hair, makeup, and costume designs were selected well to indicate their respective roles as eldest sister, middle sister, and youngest, without trying to make any of them look like they did thirty years ago in the original. The genuine and natural look was a great choice and really respected the audience's intelligence.
Finally, the story was exactly what it needed to be. It stepped up the stakes of the original without going over the top. It introduced new elements to the story that were relevant and interesting (at least in my mind). The movie begins with a flashback to the Sanderson sisters as children, showing the audience how they came into their powers. The child actresses, by the way, blew me away with their portrayals of the girls who would become Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. The young Winifred especially nailed the expressions and mannerisms of Midler's character, to a tee.
In bringing in new background and escalating the goals of the witches, the story avoided the trap of being a rehash of the original. There were, however, plenty of callbacks that fans will enjoy.
Once or twice, the film made a choice that made me roll my eyes. I was not a fan of the witches bursting into modern pop song and synchronized dance the instant they rose again, with no audience or reason to do so. A few of their anachronistic jokes failed to land. But, in a way, even that contributed to the silly, campy charm. The newer film is a shade more juvenile (the original had a well-chosen 'swear' word here and there, and a good deal of dirty humor that flies over children's heads but is definitely understood by adults), but I think that's to be expected of Disney given the context in which they chose to release the film.
Overall, Hocus Pocus 2 delivered what I hoped it would. It captured the spirit of the original, stepped up the game without being repetitive, introduced new elements without discarding the old, and it made a good deal of right choices where I hadn't expected them. It's definitely more of a kid's film than the original, but still a fun film for the spooky season. If you liked the original, I'm sure you'll enjoy this one.