Disney’s “Hocus Pocus 2,” the long-awaited sequel to cult favorite “Hocus Pocus,” has bewitched audiences nearly 30 years later. Available on Disney Plus, “Hocus Pocus 2” broke the service’s streaming record within its first three days and bested “Hocus Pocus” in terms of opening-week performance. The original was released during the summer of 1993, and it wasn’t well-received. It became a cult favorite and only recently started to surge in mainstream popularity.
Is ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ as Good as ‘Hocus Pocus’?
“Hocus Pocus 2” has received mixed reviews. We’ll share them below, but we want to share our two cents first. We’ll be talking about the entirety of the movie, so spoilers ahead!
As fans of the original movie, we enjoyed “Hocus Pocus 2” and can easily see it becoming an annual double-feature tradition. Here are some reasons we think the sequel holds up.
Callbacks to the Original
“Hocus Pocus 2” follows a different storyline and emphasizes different values, but it still manages to make lots of callbacks to the original film.
- The Sanderson sisters are brought back to the mortal realm by the same means.
- We get to enjoy watching the Sandersons react to modern technology.
- Sarah revives her famous “amok” line.
- Mary’s calming circles make a reappearance.
- The sisters have another broom ride, this time with a Swiffer and a pair of Roombas.
- We get another (literally) enchanting performance, this time to “One Way or Another,” which may be a coincidental, unintended shoutout to Swiffer’s 2006 ad campaign.
- The Sandersons cast another dance spell on a crowd, this time resulting in a dance number that looks like an homage to “Thriller.”
The movie features dozens of smaller references as well, so keep your eyes peeled the next time you watch!
Tons of Improvements
Let’s not forget that “Hocus Pocus” had quite a few goofs! “Hocus Pocus 2” not only seems to pay closer attention to historical details, but it also seems to have better internal continuity. In addition to patching up small details, “Hocus Pocus 2” shows three major improvements.
More Character Exploration
Perhaps one of the best storytelling-related choices “Hocus Pocus 2” makes is in its willingness to get the audience better acquainted with the characters — even the ones we thought we already knew.
“Hocus Pocus 2” begins with the Sanderson sisters’ origin story, which gives us a better understanding of their motivations and relationships with each other. They’re still “the bad guys,” but, as Gilbert mentions in the film, they were women ahead of their time. We’re shown that the Sanderson sisters were simply women going against the grain of a rigid, oppressive patriarchy — aside from the stealing children’s souls part, these are villains we want to root for.
The movie also creates more time for the characters. Winifred had most of the lines in the original “Hocus Pocus,” while Sarah and Mary tended to sit on the sidelines. In the sequel, we were happy to see the other two sisters — especially Mary — have more lines.
It was also fun to hear more from Billy (now that he can talk!) and learn his backstory, and we loved seeing Book take on the role of a character rather than a prop.
The cast of the original film was predominantly white, so seeing a more racially diverse and inclusive cast was certainly a breath of fresh air. “Hocus Pocus 2” also showcased some LGBTQ representation, with cameos from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” icons Ginger Minj, Kornbread Jeté, and Kahmora Hall.
What’s more, by Bechdel Test standards, “Hocus Pocus 2” can be considered a feminist film, trading in cutesy high school romances for the bond of sisterhood (whether by blood or by friendship).
There have been a few green-screen-related complaints, but the overall production of “Hocus Pocus 2” supersedes the original. From the makeup and costumes to the set design and choreography, there is so much to love about the sequel’s production glow-up.
Not a Film Critic Fave, But True Fans Will Still Enjoy
We all know sequels are tricky. It’s no surprise “Hocus Pocus 2” has received mixed reviews, but as anyone who’s used to reading movie reviews can tell you, most of the harshest words are coming from people who watch films with a more discerning eye than someone who wants to cuddle up with a blanket and some spiced cider to enjoy good, old-fashioned nostalgia.
Is “Hocus Pocus 2” a cinematic masterpiece? No, but “Hocus Pocus” fans weren’t expecting that. “Hocus Pocus” has maintained its Halloween darling status this long because of its iconic characters, memorable moments, and overall celebration of whimsy and magic — a torch that “Hocus Pocus 2” carries as its charming sequel.
As Nell Minow’s review on RogerEbert.com says: “The challenge for the sequel to a beloved film is maintaining enough of the original to make the fans happy without being too repetitive or confusing newcomers, and ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ gets that just right.”