Hocus Pocus 2 review: A wickedly magical sequel

In Hocus Pocus 2 the Sanderson Sisters return — and they’re flying high.

Hocus Pocus 2 Kathy Najimy Bette Midler Sarah Jessica Parker
(Image: © Disney Plus)

What to Watch Verdict

Nostalgia and freshness make for a sequel as bewitching as the original.

Pros

  • +

    The sisters are as silly and devilish as ever

  • +

    Bigger roles for Billy and Book

  • +

    A new Halloween tradition

Cons

  • -

    More Hannah Waddingham, please!

Hocus Pocus 2 sees the The Sanderson Sisters putting a spell on us nearly 30 years on from the original. Back when the original was released, they gave us a whole new Halloween tradition, alongside all those tubs of candy, ghost costumes and glowing pumpkins. Hocus Pocus. It’s been essential All Hallows’ Eve viewing ever since, but now 2022’s spooky season sees those devilish sisters well and truly back in something of a rarity. A sequel that is just as bewitching as the original.

It’s Halloween 2022 in Salem and the annual Scarefest is in full flow but three teenage girls have accidentally repeated the events of 1993. They’ve brought the Sanderson Sisters back for their second visit to the town which executed them for witchcraft and now have to work out how to stop them from wreaking mischief and havoc with their multitude of spells.

Anne Fletcher (Dumplin’, Hot Pursuit) has an uphill task on her hands with Hocus Pocus 2. Taking over the director’s chair from Kenny Ortega is challenging enough, and the pressure is on to bring back everybody’s favorite witches in a way that not only leaves intact those warm memories of the original but also means that new audiences of all ages are just as captivated by the antics of Winifred, Sarah and Mary (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy all reprising their roles). The good news is that she totally understood the assignment. 

Nostalgia and familiarity are there in spades, both in terms of the characters and the narrative, but there’s the bonus of more to learn about the witches themselves and other well-loved faces. And there’s a raft of modern references and new arrivals, all of whom play integral parts in the story. There’s no sense of contrivance: they’re all there for a purpose and, in some instances, leave us wanting more.

Hannah Waddingham, of Ted Lasso fame, is the stand-out example. She has just a single scene, one that’s vital in giving the silly yet spooky sisters the backstory they longed for. We never see her again, but her sparkle is essential to kicking off the action with all the energy and sense of wicked fun that it needs. Another newbie is Gilbert (Sam Richardson) who’s turned the sisters’ cottage into a gift shop, specializing in all things magic — including, of course, candles. He taps into the film’s flamboyance with such gusto that you almost suspect he might have been in the original first time round. And, echoing the three witches are the three friends, Becca (Whitney Peak), Izzy (Belinda Escobedo) and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), who bring the Sandersons back to Salem and have the unenviable task of trying to send them away again.

Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker star in Hocus Pocus 2

30 years later, the Sanderson Sisters are reunited! (Image credit: Walt Disney Studios)

The callbacks to the original film, and some truly emotional moments, hit all the right beats, starting with the sisters themselves. They’re as delightfully wicked as ever and hardly appear to have aged a day, let alone nearly 30 years. But that’s magic — and today’s makeup — for you! We learn the truth about Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones), who this time plays a larger role in the story, as well as having quite a bit to say for himself, and even Book has more personality than we could ever have imagined. Fletcher has held on to the original’s musical element as well. 

There aren’t too many songs, and they’re re-workings of classics from the 1970s — complete with pun-tastic new lyrics — but they’re essential to the fun and one showstopper could do for Blondie what Stranger Things has done for Kate Bush. Cat lovers, of course, will wonder if Binx is back as well. He is — and that’s all we’re going to say. 

The combination of homage and freshness is a real winner and, if it’s possible, Hocus Pocus 2 marks the arrival of yet another Halloween tradition, one that will keep the entire family happy and give them that essential tingle down the spine. As it arrives on Disney+, you can almost hear a sigh of relief from the direction of Disney Towers. The much-hyped live-action version of Pinocchio failed to impress just a few weeks ago yet, in that time, the magic seems to have returned. 

All of which shows that there’s life in the old Mouse yet. Because the Sanderson Sisters — and their sequel — are, quite simply, wicked.

Hocus Pocus 2 is released on Disney Plus on Friday, 30 September.

Freda can't remember a time when she didn't love films, so it's no surprise that her natural habitat is a darkened room in front of a big screen. She started writing about all things movies about eight years ago and, as well as being a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic, is a regular voice on local radio on her favorite subject. 


While she finds time to watch TV as well — her tastes range from Bake Off to Ozark — films always come first. Favourite film? The Third Man. Top ten? That's a big and complicated question .....!