is a film many consider to be a Halloween staple, myself included. Its camp and charm resonate throughout the film and still holds up surprisingly well today. So when a sequel was announced in late 2020 I was naturally excited, but cautiously so. Disney has been on a tear these past few years of double-dipping into their older iconic franchises to pump out soulless remakes and reboots. Seeing Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, and Kathy Najimy back together was enough alone to get fans of the original to tune in, sure - but now that it's released to aggressively average reviews - was it really worth it?
For hardcore fans of the original, if you can look past a few things I don't think there's too much to dislike. It's more Hocus Pocus
and we get to see a bit of an expansion of the universe. There's an interesting opening sequence showing the witches as children in what is something of an origin story. It's fun enough to warrant the 10-ish minutes it takes to conclude but the casting here is impeccable. Casting child versions of older characters is always a roll of the dice and passable at best - but Taylor Henderson, Juju Journey Brener, and Nina Kitchen are honestly standouts in the film even with their limited screen time. And as for the returning cast, I think they did a fine job; they were charming and there was a palpable energy seeing these seasoned actors having fun in these roles and not taking themselves too seriously, it's quite refreshing. Doug Jones is also back as Billy Butcherson but was criminally underused I thought, as he was one of my favorites from the original. Where the issues really start to show is in the new characters. I don't particularly take issue with the performances, they're all that you'd expect from a straight-to-streaming Disney movie, but nearly all new characters are forgettable and sometimes a bit annoying. And to be fair, these movies are not meant to showcase master character work but as a returning fan of the original some more interesting new characters would have been much preferred. It's very apparent that Disney just banked on the returning cast to bring in the views and didn't focus on creating memorable new characters to introduce into this world.
Which is where the most significant issue lies. Why bring the series back at all? Hocus Pocus
was perfect as a standalone film. There weren't any straight-to-VHS sequels or awkward holiday shorts; it existed on its own and stood the test of time. It had charisma and character which is far more than I can say about the sequel. Now anytime I rewatch the original around Halloween time we will have to decide whether or not to watch Hocus Pocus 2
to which my answer will always be simply - "no please". As I mentioned before, Disney is no stranger to digging up old franchises to make yet another corporate movie to capitalize on nostalgia but failing to recapture the charm of the original film. It's predictable but people will always show up, and knowing full well it wouldn't live up to the original - so did I. And I can't be disappointed if I never had expectations in the first place.
It's hard for me to recommend this to more casual fans of the original like myself. It is just very clear that this is more for the younger audience as opposed to people who grew up with the original. And don't get me wrong, I think content designed with the sole purpose of bringing in a new audience to the world is a great thing but when it isn't treated with the respect it deserves, there won't be any staying power and it will be entirely forgotten about - which is exactly what happened here. I don't see people getting excited to revisit Hocus Pocus 2
years down the line, adding this to their yearly Halloween watchlist, or ever feeling nostalgic for this the way they are for the original. It's heartless and forgettable which for a film, is about the worst thing it can be. So I can definitively say that no, tainting the name of the original film to release Hocus