“Hocus Pocus 2” fails to live up to its predecessor with plot holes, poor humor

Media Credit: Krishna Rajpara I Assistant Photo Editor

“Hocus Pocus 2,” directed by Anne Fletcher, follows two 21st century Salem teenagers who are tricked into bringing the Sanderson sisters back to life after 29 years on Halloween night.

There is something comforting and ritualistic about cozying up on your couch with a pumpkin-scented candle and your favorite fall drink to watch a classic, spooky Halloween movie like the 90’s classic “Hocus Pocus.”

When Disney announced a sequel featuring the original Sanderson sisters (Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy) in December 2020, it immediately rose to the top of my spooky season watchlist. But the highly anticipated sequel that premiered on Disney+ on Sept. 28 played into a younger audience, evident in the film’s watered-down plot, which strayed away from more serious themes like death and less malicious magic, in addition to the uncharacteristic humanization of the Sanderson sisters.

Fan-favorite follow-up films often struggle to strike the right balance between the new and the old while living up to their predecessor’s success. While films like “Toy Story 2” and “Kung Fu Panda 2” exceeded audiences’ expectations, “Hocus Pocus 2” fails in its attempts to maintain the same old-school, 1990’s nostalgia while appealing to a newer, younger audience with relatable, more modern jokes.

“Hocus Pocus 2,” directed by Anne Fletcher, follows two 21st-century Salem teenagers, Becca and Izzy (Whitney Peak and Belissa Escobedo), who are tricked into bringing the Sanderson sisters back to life after 29 years on Halloween night. The two teenagers work to stop the newly revived Sanderson sisters from kidnapping the affable mayor and casting an immortality spell, making Winifred the most powerful witch in the world. The teens also make amends with their former best friend Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), the mayor’s daughter, after her new relationship caused them to drift apart.

While entertaining for the younger, modern youth audience, “Hocus Pocus 2” seems to be missing what the older viewers were eagerly awaiting – the nostalgic, effortless and indescribable magic of the original. The darker themes that are prevalent in “Hocus Pocus,” like the unfortunate death of Emily Binx, are now depicted in more lighthearted and innocent ways, as if catering to a younger audience, possibly due to the new kid-friendly regulations of Disney+. The film in its entirety appears to be less frightening, with the signature Halloween eeriness that is recognizable in the original almost nonexistent, most evident in the depiction of the iconic Sanderson sisters.

Although the younger, more diverse cast performed brilliantly, the backstories of each character was either nonexistent or severely lacking, like the rarely mentioned friendship between the three girls. The viewers know very little about any of the girls’ backstories in “Hocus Pocus 2,” whereas its predecessor delves into the backstory of not only the Dennison family, but of the Binx siblings as well. The dialogue is short and choppy, and the overwhelming multitude of musical numbers – like the Sanderson sisters’ performance of “The Witches Are Back” – begs the question of whether “Hocus Pocus” warrants any future musical adaptations.

The humor of the film was also a bit off-putting, with seemingly comedic scenes that stretched on far too long, like when the Sanderson sisters used household objects as flying broomsticks. But above all, the most confusing and admittedly controversial aspect of the movie was the humanization of the Sanderson sisters at the very end of the film. Viewers first meet the Sanderson sisters as clear-cut villains, hungry and anxious for unlimited power. But in Fletcher’s confusing and conflicted sequel, the sisters lose their evil, wicked touch, ending the film with a heartwarming scene filled with the power of sisterhood.

The conclusion would appear to be a classic Disney movie ending if it did not contradict the sarcastic and evil Sanderson sisters that viewers have grown to know and love, replacing them with kinder, soft-hearted sisters, not witches. This plot hole is especially odd since the Sanderson sisters never even hinted at a sensitive side until the very end of “Hocus Pocus 2.”

Nevertheless, the entire film and ominous post-credit scene depicting a familiar-looking candle suggests that the evil witch mantle may be handed over to the newer, younger generation, with more movies to come. The film ends with Becca, the ambitious protagonist, suddenly obtaining magical powers similar to the Sanderson sisters when she becomes the new keeper of the book of magical spells.

Despite the disappointing plot, lackluster humor, missing nostalgia and attempts to modernize the classic 90’s film, it was comforting for many die-hard fans to see all three Sanderson sisters reprising their original roles. Although “Hocus Pocus 2” is bound to have audiences young and old tuned in this Halloween season, its predecessor will remain the true Halloween classic.

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