Review Round Up: Hocus Pocus 2

Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy reprise their roles in this sequel to the popular classic – but what have critics had to say about it?

The Guardian: ** “Naturally, the returning trio are all as game as ever, committing to the bit despite dialogue from screenwriter Jen D’Angelo that lacks the fizz they deserve. The shift from murderous menace to mild mischief also gives them less to sink their teeth into and the culture clash comedy of the first is inevitably less pronounced with less of a gap in time and the only real attempt to comment on this revolving around a pair of helpful Roombas (from Walgreens!), which is somehow even less funny that it sounds.”

The Times: ** “It’s a belated sequel to, and essentially a remake of, a Bette Midler “family horror comedy” that nobody needed or wanted, not now, or the first time around (the original Hocus Pocus was a box office flop in 1993).”

Empire: ** “Director Anne Fletcher (The Proposal) at least keeps things moving along, but it could and should be both funnier and scarier. That’s no fault of the supporting cast: Sam Richardson, as a magic shop with expert knowledge, brings an understated edge of sarkiness, and Tony Hale is fun as the town’s mayor. Froy Gutierrez, as Cassie’s well-meaning but witness jock boyfriend, is a scene stealer when given the chance – but the film mostly splits its time between the high camp of the three sisters and the high stakes adventure for the young heroes, and that’s precisely what we’ve seen before. There’s nothing fresh here.”

The Independent: ** “Hocus Pocus 2 doesn’t hit the extremes that made the original a critical flop, but such an enduring rewatch. It’s less menacing. It lacks the exquisite cuteness exuded by a middle-grade Thora Birch. There are zero talking cats. But that’s unlikely to matter much to most audiences. By reuniting the Sanderson Sisters, Disney is giving its loyal millennial viewership an evening of nostalgia that gen alpha will probably still be tuning into 29 years from now, when Halloween won’t just be a month-long programming block but an entire season.”

Den of Geek: ** 1/2 “Yet the movie really only is a showcase to revisit those performances and bask in their campiness; it’s a reunion special masquerading as a movie. While it’s nice to finally have a Disney movie about kids going on an adventure again, unlike the brother-sister dynamic between Omri Katz and Thora Birch in the original movie, or even the tragedy of the animatronic black cat they called Thackery Binx, there’s no emotional investment by the screenplay or the direction in Becca’s storyline. It’s perfunctory, like most of the plot machinations throughout the movie.”

Digital Spy: ***** “What recommends Hocus Pocus 2 over so many other Gen-Z pandering films (sequels or not) is the honesty with which it approaches its younger characters. There is no overblown digital language, nor shoehorning of contemporary ‘hot button’ topics, which act as a shortcut for older generations to put young people in a box and misunderstand, or worse, deride them.”

New York Times: “Anne Fletcher (“Step Up,” “The Proposal”) directs this sequel, but follows the same goofy comedic approach of the Kenny Ortega-directed first film — namely, how the sisters react to modern inventions like robot vacuums, Amazon’s Alexa and Walgreens. Even a few meta-jokes nod to the Sanderson sisters’ popularity in the world of drag. Thankfully, with a cast rounded out by Doug Jones, Hannah Waddingham and Sam Richardson, the brew-haha’s aren’t solely concentrated in the three leads.”

Hollywood Reporter: “Directed by Anne Fletcher, the live-action comedy film bears the markings of a struggle between embracing existing fans and courting new ones. Recycled plot points, jaunts down memory lane and knowing winks at the broader fandom are rolled into the type of sleek CGI package that’s typical of Disney offerings these days. The result is a thin but satisfactory piece of entertainment.”

IGN.com: “The Sanderson Sisters are back and the cost is a lot steeper than hell this time. The original cast returns to remind us why Hocus Pocus became a cult classic, and new players give fans being introduced to the franchise wonderful characters to cheer on, although Hannah Waddingham should have been given more to do. Some shoddy greenscreen work pulls Hocus Pocus 2 down, but otherwise it feels like a Disney Channel Original Movie in a charming way.”

Roger Ebert.com: *** 1/2 “The challenge for the sequel to a beloved film is maintaining enough of the original to make the fans happy without being too repetitive or confusing newcomers, and “Hocus Pocus 2” gets that just right. The highlights of the first film are celebrated (there’s a delightful musical number) and there are some very funny moments, including a Sanderson sisters costume competition. It is not a spoiler to say that smart, brave, and loyal teenagers get more comic treats than tricks. So does the audience. NOTE: Watch all the way to the end of the credits for an extra scene.”

Radio Times: *** “On the film’s own daffy terms, Fletcher is more successful when she leans into the Halloween hokum and nostalgia bait. She makes the most of the moonlit woods sequences, branches cracking like The Blair Witch Project for kids, while the Sandersons and creature actor Doug Jones’ zombie Billy bank a solid haul of jokes.”

Variety: “It’s hard to be too intimidated by three women who keep erupting into musical numbers, including a cover of Elton John’s “The Bitch Is Back” (with “witch” swapped in for the b-word) that leaves so many questions — like, “Have they been rehearsing this in hell?” and “How long till this spawns a stage musical?” One senses all involved trying to re-create the earlier film’s sense of camp. “Hocus Pocus 2” is actually the better made film, even if it amounts to little more than a stealth remake, with strategic decisions about the present-day and old-Salem witch trios being engineered to allow for more sequels, whether or not its three stars return.”

Hocus Pocus 2 is available to watch on Disney +

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