Hocus Pocus 2

Verdict: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy are terrific as the witches once again but the film falls short of the original

Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy return as the Sanderson sisters after 29 years.

If you’re a fan of the 1993 Halloween classic Hocus Pocus, it’s time to rejoice – the sequel is finally here!

The film, directed by Anne Fletcher, is set 29 years after the events of the first one. Once again, it stars teenagers who light the black flame candle and bring the Sanderson sisters, a coven of witches, back to life.

This time around, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), who are unwittingly given the candle by magic store owner Gilbert (Sam Richardson). They light the candle as part of their annual Halloween ritual and, surprise, surprise, sisters Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) return to present-day Salem.

Thankfully, this film doesn’t follow the same storyline as the first. We don’t have to watch the witches find children to drink dry to preserve their youth. In this outing, their mission is to seek revenge on Mayor Jefrey Traske (Tony Hale), who looks like a nemesis from their past.

Although the main narrative is different, fans will recognise many references to the original and new twists on familiar aspects – the sisterly arguments, musical numbers, interesting broom replacements and fish-out-of-water moments as they navigate the modern world.

The movie honours what came before and doesn’t stray too far from it. However, that also means similar moments can be compared and the new version comes up short. For example, the musical numbers (there are two) don’t even come close to the iconic I Put a Spell on You sequence from the original.

The film’s biggest strength is the returning trio of witches. Midler, Najimy, and Parker are fantastic as the sisters once again and play them in the exact same way as before. It’s like they never left! They look like they had a ball making this and that feeling just might rub off on you too.

Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson – Winifred and Sarah’s ex-lover and resurrected zombie – is slightly different this time around and it felt jarring to hear him talk so much. He never used to be so chatty!

The standout among the newcomers is Ted Lasso’s Hannah Waddingham as a fabulous, beautiful witch so it’s such a shame she’s not in this more.

It was always going to be a challenge for the Hocus Pocus team to reach the heights of the original after a 29-year absence – and the sequel never quite gets there. It doesn’t match up to what came before but Fletcher gives it a really good try and the result is quite fun!

On Disney+ from Friday 30th September.

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