Hocus Pocus, as a film, has no logical logic. The story, which centers around the witches of a coven that seek to devour children, includes talking cats and a child who hates Halloween, and too many references to young girls lighting candles. It was released mysteriously at the end of summer 1993 It was a box-office fail that sparked criticism.
However, Hocus Pocus, as a cultural phenomenon, makes total sense. Costumes are easy to replicate and the one-liners are incredibly to recite. The film is a bit snarky and fun, featuring a catchy music track and outrageous performance. In the context of Halloween, Hocus Pocus has become popular in the fall, just like pumpkin spice lattes. The most avid viewers tune in every month and it is shown almost every day on the TV.
Of course, Disney created the sequel. Hocus Pocus 2, which has been streamed via Disney+ yesterday, revives the hated Sanderson sisters, Winifred, Mary Mary, and Sarah (played each by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker)–nearly 30 years after the first. As with the cast of bizarre spell-casting diva’s at the center of this sequel is strange, flashy, and wild. Yet, it’s pleasing to behold.
I’m not a die-hard Hocus Pocus fan–it’s never been an annual viewing event for me, more of a catch-it-on-in-the-background kind of thing–but I nevertheless found myself charmed by the new entry. The film slays its absurdity so well, it’s hard to dislike. It’s both an enjoyable look and an insightful review of its predecessor’s strengths. Hocus Pocus 2 understands that Hocus Pocus has a lot that don’t work, like an overly-extended plot, sloppy dialogue and uninteresting effects. What the original did have was a unique cartoonish raucusness, the kind of harmless humour that transforms a dull film into a fan favorite.
Hocus Pocus 2 grasps, in other words, the first film wasn’t sacred storytelling. As sequels, it offers plenty of enjoyment with the story. It reduces the plot to its most basic elements and largely ignores the preceding events to create scenes which allow the characters to take in as much scenery as they can. An eerie flashback of the Sandersons of their youth in the 1600s for example it is a retelling of the voice of Ted Lasso’s Hannah Waddingham as a fabulously eccentric witch who grants the Sandersons their own sentient spell book and a sexy Tony Hale as an arachnophobic reverend. Teenagers in this go are also a part of the magic instead of just watching the sisters. The script also plays up its own absurdity. “Who are they performing for?” one character asks in the beginning at the time Winifred, Mary, and Sarah arrive, and they immediately break out into the song.