Disney’s Hocus Pocus 2 is here, after three decades of hopes, dreams, and rumors, and the sequel succeeds in delivering the bewitchingly fun and heartfelt return to Salem that a generation of fans (and their kids) have longed for.
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy return to reprise their now-iconic roles as Winnifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson, respectively, witches from the 1600s resurrected in modern day Salem and encountering modern marvels like a Walgreens store and a pair of Roomba robot vacuum cleaners in lieu of a broom. They also encounter a more savvy group of teenagers, who already have a few of their own ideas about witchcraft.
The great Doug Jones is also back, reprising his role from the first film as Billy Butcherson, who we understood to be Winnifred’s former boyfriend (before she killed him for cheating on her with Sarah), but that story may not be what really happened, as this is one of many surprises the sequel has in store, building on the established Sanderson witches tale while expanding the overall mythology in unexpected ways.
I especially enjoyed how much more of Billy Butcherson’s story and personality was revealed, with Doug Jones having a blast with the physical comedy. Billy gets a lot more screen time and Jones’ immeasurable talents are on full display.
The new film is full of love for and references to the original film, some overt and some more subtle. It begins with a flashback, as did the original, but this time it’s even further back to the Sanderson sisters’ early years and the day when Winnifred first encountered her beloved Book of spells. The actresses who portray these early versions of the sisters – Taylor Henderson as Young Winnifred, Juju Brener as Young Sarah, and Nina Kitchen as Young Mary – are all excellent, capturing the instantly recognizable essence of each their adult counterparts.
The cast also includes Whitney Peak, Lilia Buckingham, and Belissa Escobedo, as a trio of best friends that are not unlike the girls of The Craft, exploring and experimenting with the lighter side of witchcraft, shopping at the local magic shop that used to be the Sandersons’ home. These young women may not to be related by blood, but they are sisters nonetheless, and they bring a certain 2022 savvy about witches and their real life history that the teens in the original may have lacked.
Sam Richardson plays Gilbert, the owner of the magic shop and a huge fan of the Sandersons, which opens the door to the meta joke of all the Sanderson-themed merch sold to Salem tourists, like replica spell books and black flame candles, much like the actual Hocus Pocus merchandise licensed by Disney and sold to fans in the real word.
Tony Hale is also featured in dual roles as both Salem’s current candy apple-loving mayor and his witch-hating ancestor.
The film is beautifully shot, and positively brimming with Halloween atmosphere, as the witches once again take to the lively and spirited streets of Salem, inevitably leading to a stage and a rousing musical number, one of two performances in the sequel. And of course there are life lessons to be learned, both for the 300-plus year old witches and their modern counterparts, that make a Disney movie what it is.
For the kids who grew up watching the original and now have their own children that they watch it with as an annual tradition every Halloween, Hocus Pocus 2 is sure to conjure new magical memories and become part of that tradition each October.
Hocus Pocus 2 is streaming on Disney+.
For more Halloween news, follow @HalloweenDaily.