After a 29-year absence, the Sanderson Sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy) have been brought back to life in the woods of Salem when a young teenager (Whitney Peak) lights the Black Candle. Intent on revenge and conjuring the Magicae Maxima to make themselves all powerful, the Sanderson Sisters set for Salem...
'Hocus Pocus' garnered its cult status - if you can call it that - not necessarily from being particularly subversive or unusual. The only thing strange about 'Hocus Pocus' was that it was released during the summer and not during the autumn, with which it's so closely associated. It was a competently made Halloween kids' movie with reliable comedic talents Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy with a pre-'SATC' Sarah Jessica Parker leading out a script by Stephen King's favourite director, Mick Garris. 'Hocus Pocus' became such a revered movie of the season simply because television schedulers lacked a ready supply of pre-watershed Halloween movies, and so 'Hocus Pocus' was screened year after year around the globe and engendered an entire generation of Sanderson Sisters.
Flash forward to 2022, terrestrial television is in freefall, streaming is the new television, and 'Hocus Pocus 2' is set for release on Disney+ in the dying embers of September. All is right with the world. As you settle into watching 'Hocus Pocus 2', what's clear from the opening prologue involving a Puritan flashback to how the Sanderson Sisters became witches is that everyone's now in on the joke. If there was any kind of sly humour to be wrung from the original, it's now front and centre here. When the Sanderson Sisters make their way into Salem, they're confronted by people dressed as them, kids looking for selfies with them, and even encounter a drag queen trio who have emulated their look and style.
To their credit, Middler-Najimy-Parker are all game for a laugh, ably slipping back into the roles and corsets they filled out nearly three decades ago, with nobody trying to edge another out because of their perceived status in the intervening years. If anything, you get the sense that everyone was just happy to be together again. Moreover, you get the sense that the reason 'Hocus Pocus 2' never came together until now wasn't necessarily a lack of interest from all concerned (or waiting for a good script to come together either), but simply a factor of their schedules and corporate interest in a sequel to a movie that had a pretty lacklustre box office way back when.
The intended audience of 'Hocus Pocus 2' - parents who watched the original as kids, now with their own - will enjoy the easy-going laughs from it all, but there isn't much else to be gleaned from it all. Enjoy it for what it is - another helping of a disposable and familiar seasonal treat, nothing more and nothing less.