Hocus Pocus 2

Certificate: PG

Starring: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Sam Richardson, Doug Jones

Release date: 2022

3 out of 5


1993’s slight family movie Hocus Pocus is something of a phenomenon – one of those movies that wasn’t universally loved on its release (in fact, many critics savaged it, and it didn’t do well at the box office either) but has become beloved by viewers who caught it on DVD and on TV as kids and have turned it into a must-see every Hallowe’en as they’ve grown up.

It’s taken 29 years for a sequel to be made, but thirty-something fans can relax – this comedy fantasy is that rare thing, a movie that is just as good – if not better – than the original (see also Top Gun: Maverick). And, as a bonus for those with kids who have never seen the first movie, you don’t have to be a fan of the original (or even have seen it) to enjoy it.

A brief flashback to 1653 Salem details how Winifred Sanderson was banished from the village and took shelter in the woods with her sisters Mary and Sarah. There, they meet a witch (Hannah Waddingham, sadly only making a brief appearance) who gifts Winifred her book of magic and explains the sisters will need to kill children to keep their youthfulness.

Jump forward to 2022 Salem, and it’s 29 years since the Sanderson sisters were last resurrected (in the original movie) and then turned to dust. Teens Becca and Izzy are preparing to celebrate Halloween without their friend Cassie, who is spending all her time with her boyfriend, and they head off to the woods with a candle gifted by magic shop owner Gilbert (Richardson) for Becca’s 16thbirthday.

On lighting it, they discover it’s a Black Flame Candle, and because it is a full moon and both the girls are virgins, it means the Sanderson sisters have been resurrected once again.

Cue lots of witchy hi-jinks, musical numbers and a brief flash of plot as the sisters head off to create havoc and take revenge on the town that once condemned them.

There are no big surprises plot-wise, but what works really well here is there are two stories – the realistic relationship between the three teenage girls, and the return of the deliciously wicked witches – that are given equal screen time and are both enjoyable and entertaining.

While some other long-awaited sequels have only featured the original cast in minor roles, this really does have Midler, Parker and Najimy front and centre with young costars Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo and Lilia Buckingham, and they’re all terrific (and a special shout out to Taylor Paige Henderson who is a joy as teen Winnie back in 1653).

There are some fun nods to the modern day world – the automatic doors of a Walgreens pharmacy that the witches think they are controlling, drag queens entering a Sanderson sister costume competition and Mary’s novel use of a pair of vacuum roombas being just three – and also references to the original movie that fans will enjoy (though they may grumble that Binx, Max and Dani from the original are nowhere to be seen – perhaps they have moved to a a town with less sorcerer activity).

Of course, in the end it is Bette, Sarah and Kathy’s show, and they are all fabulous in this sweetly witchy fantasy movie that’s sure to please all the ardent fans of the first movie who have waited a very long time for this sequel, while also enchanting a whole new generation of kids to fall in love with the Sanderson sisters, too.

Is Hocus Pocus 2 suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...

Like Hocus Pocus, this is more fun than scary, but under-8s may find it a little dark and frightening if they are not used to movies like this.

Very young viewers may find the witch at the beginning a little frightening, and they may also not like Book (who has a moving eye).

The Sanderson sisters themselves aren’t frightening, and there is less mention of them eating children than there was in the first movie.

Parents of very young kids should note that there is mention of virgins (needed for the curse to be lifted) but this is amusingly touched on when Gilbert tells a group of kids at his magic shop about the curse and is asked by one what a virgin is (his answer is a treat).

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