The long awaited Hocus Pocus 2 finally released on September 30, 2022. Critics seem to like it, but what will you think if you’re a long term fan of the original cult classic?
The original Hocus Pocus (released in 1993) started as a family friendly, mostly over the top, and corny Halloween movie. Since then, it has developed its own cult following – my family included – who watch the movie every year, and at least for us, multiple times a year.
Yes. We are that family who will watch a Halloween movie in March.
Like many other fans of the original, I had some concerns going into viewing Hocus Pocus 2. How would it capture the “magic” of the first movie? Would it even come close? Or would it just disappoint us?
Still, we tried to keep an open mind without getting too excited for what may be a very disappointing story.
Our answer – for now pending additional viewings – is mixed right now. My daughter, who’s favorite holiday is Halloween and who often asks to watch the first Hocus Pocus movie, really enjoyed it. My wife and I though, both determined we needed to see it again before coming up with any real opinions.
But that won’t stop me from writing my own set of spoiler-free hot takes from Hocus Pocus 2.
5 Hot Takes from Hocus Pocus 2
In no particular order, here are some hot takes about Hocus Pocus 2.
1. Critic reviews and audience reviews flip-flopped
Hocus Pocus 2 scored really well with critics… well, better anyway than the first did.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, of just over 100 critical reviews, Hocus Pocus 2 currently has a rating of 61%. The original is sitting at 58 reviews and a “rotten” score of 38%.
The audience scores – so far – do not fully agree. As of writing this, the audience score for Hocus Pocus 2 is sitting at about 57% with over 1,000 reviews. The first movie is sitting at a 71% score from well over 250 thousand reviews.
IMDb tells a slightly different story. While it’s critics give Hocus Pocus a 6.9 out of 10, the critical score for Hocus Pocus 2 is currently at 6.2 out of 10. This gives the original film’s ranking higher than the sequel.
But audience scores are still lower for Hocus Pocus 2 with a current rating of 35. Hocus Pocus has an audience score of 46.
Though I certainly did not read through all one thousand plus reviews, the majority of audience members bad reviews complained about not living up to the original, new themes, lacking the “magical” feel, and bland story telling.
2. The Sanderson sisters seemed “old”
Admittedly, this is an odd thing to say.
By the time Hocus Pocus 2 came out, the Sanderson sisters have been dead for 329 years. Of course they seem old.
Also, it’s been 29 years since the first movie’s release, which means Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy seem much older because they literally are.
Doug Jones, who plays the 300 year old corpse of Billy Butcherson in Hocus Pocus, has also aged significantly.
And sadly, at times, it is very obvious. They seem to lack the energy that they gave to their characters when they were nearly 30 years younger.
Your kids may not notice the difference in age, but if you grew up with the original Hocus Pocus, Hocus Pocus 2 may make you feel as old and tired as their performances.
3. Hocus Pocus 2 bordered on a remake
Don’t get me wrong, Hocus Pocus 2 is a direct sequel with certain aspects of the 1993 film being central to the plot. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t seem to recycle old material and plot devices.
Both Hocus Pocus and Hocus Pocus 2:
- started out in the 1600s with flashbacks to the Sanderson sisters
- had plucky, unprepared youth to fight them
- featured the sisters needing to find a way to live past the one night
- involved a black flame candle and black cat (sadly not Thackery Binx)
- included song and dance numbers to take advantage of Midler’s singing
- put the heroes/heroines in mortal danger
In fairness, the plot was not 100% the same or feel like a remake like when Disney’s Star Wars made the Force Awakens a more or less shot for shot remake of a New Hope. Really there is a fine line between engaging nostalgia for the older fans and brining in new concepts.
I would say they just eked out enough new concepts and story to make it fresh-ish, but at times, the jokes and overall feel were like they tried too hard to copy the original. And assuming it does well for Disney, they may use Hocus Pocus 2 to launch additional Disney+ movies or shows with the new characters, making it a bit of a sequel and reboot combo like the Jurassic World trilogy.
4. Hocus Pocus 2 missed the reason the originals worked
Hocus Pocus worked for the simple fact that the actors and actresses made the stakes seem high, while simultaneously leaning into the ridiculousness of the plot, situation, and so on. In doing so, they created an arguably terrible B rate movie, and inadvertently created a cult classic because it was so good in its badness.
Hocus Pocus stumbled into popularity by simply being itself. The Hocus Pocus sequel, though, tries very hard to imitate the essence of what made the first movie so good. And while it is close, it just does not quite hit the mark.
Don’t get me wrong, it was close-ish, but it didn’t quite take itself seriously enough. It went for a much more silly tone reminiscent of nearly any of the dribble the Disney Channel shovels out each year with nothing really distinguishing it from the rabble other than the Sanderson sisters themselves.
For simplicity sake, I’ll just say it didn’t quite capture the right mood, tone, plot, and essence that the original one did, though it was a lot closer than I was fearing it would be.
5. Virgin had appropriate homage paid to it
In the original Hocus Pocus, the concept of a virgin plays a very central role. They only mention it 9 times throughout the movie designed for kids who likely had no idea what it made.
Hocus Pocus 2 used the concept of virginity and poked some fun at the heavy emphasis from the first movie.
6. It’s actually watchable and generally enjoyable
My first take of Hocus Pocus 2 is that it is far from the hot garbage I thought it could be. Sequels rarely live up to the original with some notable exceptions.
It is even more difficult for a sequel to do the original justice when there is so much time between the two. The target demographic has not changed much, but the original target audience is now no longer the right demographic. This has led several current defenders of Hocus Pocus 2 to say things like “well, you are not the intended audience so…”
But ignoring the original target audience, who are now all adults watching with their children or alone in their parents’ basement, is a mistake for just about any sequel of a movie with a cult following. The reason Disney is making the movie in the first place is because of the popularity of the first.
So they needed to, and generally did, pay some homage to the original, but for some, it didn’t hit the mark.
I’m inclined, after an initial viewing, to say it was OK-ish, not great, but definitely better than it could have been. For me, having a direct tie into the original children (Max, Allison, and Dani) could have made the sequel a bit better.
They could have then kept the new cast as is but had the one girl be Max and Allison’s kid or Dani’s kid. In fact, the script seems like it may have originally been written as such and then they changed it when they couldn’t get all of the original cast back.
More Hocus Pocus and Halloween content
Yeah, I’ve written about Hocus Pocus a few times here. If you want to read more about Hocus Pocus or take a quiz, check out these other posts: