Hocus Pocus 2 is a heartwarming love letter to the original, with just as much charm

It’s been 29 years… Right (almost) down to the day… Now the witch is back… And there’s hell to pay… The Sanderson sisters have returned to run amok through Salem. Hocus Pocus 2 conjures up a mischievous homage to the original whilst casting its own spell that will win fans over in a heartbeat.

2022 is a great year for decades-late sequels. With Scream, Top Gun: Maverick and Prey all fulfilling the legacy of their respective predecessors, the bar is pretty high. Each a hit with fans and critics alike, they prove to be spectacular acts to follow – no pressure, right? Like the films that came before the above sequels, Hocus Pocus is an absolute timeless classic.

The trio of witches (played to perfection by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker) are hilarious to watch as they adjust to what was once the modern day; and let’s be real, nothing sums up the 90s better than Max’s (Omri Katz) floppy hair cut and tye-dye sweater. To touch such an iconic film nearly 30 years later takes about as much courage as lighting the black flame candle.

But with Anne Fletcher (The Proposal, 27 Dresses) in the director’s chair, viewers can rest assured that the sequel has a lot more to offer than just blatant fan service. Hocus Pocus 2 picks up with a prologue on how the teenage Sanderson sisters came to be united with Winifred’s beloved book of spells – audiences will certainly have a hard time tearing their eyes off Hannah Waddingham, who leads with a captivating presence as she delivers a magic 101 lesson. The power of Waddingham is strong, that’s for sure.

Hocus Pocus 2 sets off to a great start, building anticipation amongst fans who eagerly await the appearance of Midler, Najimy and Parker. Moving into the present day, viewers are introduced to newcomers, best friends Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo). The pair are a delightful addition to the sequel as they battle with the social woes of high school without playing into any obnoxious, overused tropes – or repeating a similar premise as the original, which can be an easy trap to fall into.

Instead, Hocus Pocus 2 embraces empowerment, a prevalent theme throughout. There are some really fantastic (and comical) callbacks thrown in for nostalgia – and they work. The jokes land. While watching the witches figure out public transport and the concept of roads is highly amusing, them discovering Walgreens and becoming reliant on Roombas conjures up just as much laughs, matching the tempo Fletcher sets out to achieve. Homage is paid without being overdone as the film branches out into creating its own legacy in addition to fleshing out characters, old and new. Everyone brings their own magnetic quality to the table.

Fans shouldn’t be too surprised by how effortless it is for Midler, Najimy and Parker to slip back into their roles. They look like they’re having a ball. Their energy is infectious. It truly feels as though no time has passed at all. And there’s an immeasurable amount of heart delivered into their performances, particularly as the film explores their dynamic on a slightly deeper level than its predecessor. It’s really no wonder the three manage to put a spell on viewers – and Salem – not once, but twice.

Hocus Pocus 2 is a wonderful, heartwarming and worthy sequel to a beloved classic. There’s rarely a moment the film doesn’t shine. Fans will openly cheer at the arrival of the Sanderson sisters; it would be a joy to watch Midler, Najimy and Parker play these roles for the rest of their lives. A perfect love letter indeed.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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