Director: Anne Fletcher Screenwriter: Jen D'Angelo Cast: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Sam Richardson, Doug Jones, Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, Tony Hale, Hannah Waddingham Distributor: Disney+ Running Time: 103 min. MPAA: PG

Considering that the original Hocus Pocus was an almost TV movie that gained a cult following, my expectations were rather low for this sequel. After all, the original Hocus Pocus was only as compelling for its top-notch performances by the trio of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the witch trio of the Sanderson Sisters. The sequel proves to be a passable continuance of the basic allure which has turned this small witch movie into an unexpected Disney classic of Halloween.

Hocus Pocus 2 feels like a mild bit of fun for returning to this cult classic. It doesn’t exactly expand on much and it presents only mildly more interesting characters than the previous picture. Of course, if your only desire is to see more of the witch sisters back in action, you’ll certainly get plenty of that.

The premise sticks a tad closer to the Sandersons by giving them a bit of backstory. You get to learn more about the women when they were girls and how they came to assemble with their witch powers. Now, relax, there’s no redemption arc present for these witches. Once they’re revived in modern times, they’re still their old troublemaking selves, desiring souls and absolute magical powers. It’s just now their dangerous kinship becomes a cautionary tale for those who resurrect them.

Bringing the Sandersons sisters into the 2020s are two teenagers, Becca and Izzy, obsessed with the witch culture because, hey, it’s Salem! Aiding in their allure is the Sanderson sister merch shop owner, Gilbert, played by Sam Richardson. He gifts them a candle and it just happens to be the candle that brings the witches into the present. This is a development that shocks the teens while making the fanboy Gilbert all giddy for being able to meet the real deal witches.

The teenagers are meant to not only stop the Sandersons but repair an alliance that has faltered with age. That’s a solid theme but it’s not given as much weight when most of the scenes seem focused on understanding the Sandersons than getting accustomed to these new characters. It makes it harder to appreciate this broader goal for the teens and easier to sympathize with the goofy mayor (Tony Hale) whose only desire in this narrative is to get himself a candied apple.

The good news is that the Sandersons mostly get the job done with their antics and absurdities. Watching them mistake beauty products at a drug store by children’s souls has its funny moments, especially when they start eating face cream. They will get some new brooms, one of them attempting to master Roombas. They’ll later crash a Halloween bash and steal the stage once again since they can’t resist a good musical number.

There’s not a whole lot to this movie which is a mixed bag, like a Halloween bag filled with fun-sized chocolates and no-fun hard candies. It’s suitable enough for the family, considering there’s a far less awkward conversation about explaining what virgins are for the wee ones. There’s more music and more personalities for the Sanderson sisters, even if that same level of depth is missing from the rest of the characters. We don’t even get to explore much of how the teen trio is drifting apart, making one feel like there is a hefty dose of cut scenes or a heavily revised draft for this sequel.

Hocus Pocus 2 had a lot of potential to be something more but it mostly just revives and reprises all its old tricks. The only major positive is that it’ll give those pining for an extra dose of the Sandersons another shot for the Halloween season, pleasing those who keep marathoning the picture on repeat every season.

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