‘Hocus Pocus,’ Out of Focus

The sequel that no one asked for doesn’t deliver

The original Hocus Pocus is a cute, fun movie, but not a masterpiece of any kind. So I was looking forward to Hocus Pocus 2, and expecting it to be at least as cute and fun, if not better thanks to a larger budget. This sequel has a lot going for it, but it was also overstuffed with unnecessary characters. When it came to subplots, all those characters were essentially too many cooks in the kitchen, a bad thing when one of your food groups is children. The plot is far too convoluted and yet also underdeveloped. It does a lot of telling rather than actually showing the purported relationships it discusses. Also, no talking cats. Boo.

Things start off strong with scenes featuring the Sanderson sisters as young teenagers, with some spot-on casting lending extra humor to the scenes. However things drag on a bit and for some reason the movie feels the need to give us a complete origin story for the sisters. It’s a misguided bid to make them more sympathetic, despite the fact that they’ve been eating children for decades.

Finally, the flashback sequence ends and we get to meet our main characters, Becca and Izzy, and their estranged friend Cassie. The friends’ estrangement is ostensibly a major deal, but at no point do we learn about their friendship or why we should care that it’s over. This is just one of many weak plot points throughout the film. Perhaps it could have used some of the flashback sequences to teach us more about this all-important friendship.

All three original Sanderson sisters –Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, and Sarah Jessica Parker–are back and looking exactly the same, if not better. Their chemistry together is still very fun and yet. The storyline following them attempts to make a meal out of a snack. It starts off strong with a clever ruse from Becca and Izzy at Walgreens,where Kathy Najimy delightfully eats a face mask thinking it’s a child’s soul. But it’s all downhill from there, if you can believe it.

The sisters want to eat kids. The kids, they do not want to be eaten. Cassie throws a party that looks more fun than this movie. The movie then ruins a funny bit where the Sanderson sisters participate in a Sanderson sisters-themed costume by stretching the scene like taffy.

Sam Richardson is normally one of my favorites, but I don’t know if the movie needed his character as written. That said, he ends up being crucial, providing the black-flame candle that the girls light to bring the Sanderson sisters back (without their knowledge), and that sort of drives home my major reasons for preferring the original.

In the original movie, Max makes the active choice to light the candle and bring the sisters back. Granted, he’s a skeptic, but nonetheless it’s a direct action he takes, which gives higher stakes to the consequences of his decision. Unlike Max, someone bamboozles Becca and Izzy into lighting the candle and bringing back the witches. They have no agency and are passive throughout most of what happens to them, including the estranged friendship.

Overall, the film looks wonderful. The casting, acting, and chemistry between actors are all excellent. But despite all the positives, Hocus Pocus 2 is still a lackluster sequel with one too many cover songs.

At one point, I got violently angry that this movie had the audacity to pretend Walgreens sells Roombas, as if they stock $400 robot vacuums in there. I realize it’s ridiculous to be unable to suspend my disbelief for this minor plot point in a movie about child-eating witches. But if this movie had been better, I wouldn’t have even noticed.

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Kristin Clifford

Kristin Clifford is a comedy writer in Los Angeles. She started in Chicago, studying improv and performing stand-up, but has traded the stage for the page. Recent projects include writing for season 2 of Cathy in Real Life.

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