Direction: Anne Fletcher. Starring: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Whitney Peak, Sam Richardson, Doug Jones, Belissa Escobedo, Lilia Buckingham, Tony Hale, Hannah Waddingham. Rated PG, 104 minutes
Hocus Pocus has had a life after death. It has been 29 years since a virgin first lit the black-flame candle, resurrecting a trio of Salem witches and drawing relentless disdain from film critics. With a cauldron overflowing with flashy performances, baroque plotlines and immortal cats, the 1993 Disney comedy was called “an unholy disaster” by New York Times, while venerable critic Roger Ebert said the film “desperately needed self-discipline.” But this October, the American channel Freeform, run by Disney, will broadcast Hocus Pocus 13 times in 31 days. The clutter of a studio is the black magic of a subsidiary channel.
It’s thanks to the streaming of these popular cult movies that Disney has given the Sanderson sisters a sequel, premiering exclusively on Disney+ just in time for Halloween. Directed by Anne Fletcher (The Proposal ), Hocus Pocus 2 sees the return of Bette Midler as Winifred, the wild and arrogant older sister with slightly buck teeth, along with Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah, the clueless flirt, and Kathy Najimy as Mary, the wild third sister who always gets by with what she does. what is on hand. However, this sequel is not magical.
The millennialsin addition to the marketing masterminds responsible for inventing Freeform’s “31 Nights of Halloween” extravaganza, are responsible for transforming the Hocus Pocus original a hackneyed favorite, but the sequel is still geared towards kids. The Sanderson sisters are accidentally invited to the year 2022 by a teenager named Becca (Whitney Peak), who dabbles in ritual magic without necessarily thinking it’s real.
From there, the film takes the form of a scavenger hunt in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts, which looks more artificially cheesy than it did in 1993. Child-eating witches need ingredients: a lover’s head, a berry rare, etc., for a spell to transform his reprieve from death that would only last one night into immortality. Becca, who should be celebrating her 16th birthday, teams up with her best friends to stop them. They visit the school. The cemetery. The town square. In a sequence that reeks of old-school product placement, everyone spends a surprising amount of the movie at a Walgreens. (“This is a fraud,” the witches scream when a cream called BabyFace fails to restore their youth.)
For nostalgic viewers, the most satisfying few minutes may be the opening scene of Hocus Pocus 2, which serves as an origin story for how the Sanderson sisters gained their mystical powers. As children, the sisters are played by a trio of young actresses: Taylor Henderson (Winifred), Nina Kitchen (Mary), Juju Journey Brener (Sarah), whose mimicry of their older counterparts’ mannerisms is so hilariously accurate that I suspect they They watched the original movie as many times as I did. But the main trio of Midler, Parker and Najimy fail to recapture the joyful chaos of the first installment. Parker is less unabashedly flirtatious; Najimy is less absurdly useless. She never feels the director’s absence anymore Hocus PocusKenny Ortega, as during the film’s big musical number, which doesn’t compare to Midler’s vampiric performance of “I Put a Spell On You” from the first film.
There are new delights, no doubt. Hannah Waddingham (ted lasso) has an all-too-brief involvement as an experienced witch who realizes that Winifred has the right temperament for wizardry, which is to say, the wrong temperament to be a girl in 18th-century Salem. Becca, too, is played with charming rudeness by the already experienced in new versions Peak, whom we last saw in Gossip Girl 2.0. A pair of Roomba robot vacuums have a fun narrative use. Tony Hale (Buster in Arrested Development), on the other hand, plays his mayor of Salem as a man who knows he is comic relief in a children’s movie.
Hocus Pocus 2 It doesn’t go to the lengths that made the original a critical flop, but it is an enduring reunion. It is less threatening. It lacks the luscious tenderness that comes from a medium grade Thora Birch. There are no talking cats. But that is unlikely to matter to the majority of the public. By bringing the Sanderson sisters together, Disney offers its loyal viewers millennials a night of nostalgia that the alpha generation will likely still be tuning into 29 years from now, when Halloween isn’t just a month-long block of programming, but an entire season.