I asked my 7 year old son “Well, which one did you think was better?” While I’d imagine he won’t be the predominant demographic watching (30 somethings will be the core audience), he is around the age I was when I first watched Hocus Pocus but perhaps, most importantly, he is untouched by the biased hands of nostalgia. He replied “the first one” with no other reason than “it was just better”. And that pretty much sums up Hocus Pocus 2. But, what needs factored into this equation, is that it really doesn’t matter.
If you’re a millennial like me, you were most likely planning a reunion with “the girls” to watch the Sanderson Sisters return to the screen because it is now totally (and thankfully) acceptable to be a woman in your mid-thirties excited about a Disney movie. On this occasion, however, the excitement would be tempered with an acute element of reservation – How could it be better? Could it work without Max, Allison and Dani? Could the warmth I feel for the original ever really be replicated? Those reservations were founded. It wasn’t better; I missed the original trio sorely; and the warmth was admittedly a few degrees cooler but we knew this going in.
Hocus Pocus 2 follows new characters Becca, Izzy and Cassie and their attempt to navigate high school life in true American fashion with your jocks, your “weirdos” and those trying to negotiate between the two. We see the core group of friends temporarily drift but predictably reunite and just in time to save the day. The Black Flame Candle remains the conduit for the Sandersons in making their way back to the modern world and, again, it is a quest of defeating the trio before they run too much of amok amok amok.
We’re reminded of old jokes – missing brooms and their alternatives – and introduced to some new humour along the way. Sarah consuming a child in moisturiser form named “Retinol” might well by my own personal favourite. And if, like me, you’re watching it now with your own kids you’ll have to take the risk of one of them asking what a virgin is.
Like the original, many of the laughs come from watching the “three ancient hags’” take on the now 21st Century and, in my humble fan-girl opinion, this holds up. The plot works, though not without its holes, and offers some revelations such as the backstory for how the witches came to be which will be particularly enjoyable for the oldies watching. Whatever holes we do come across along the way, we’re quite happy to smooth over them with sheer adoration for the three women, almost 30 years later, still rocking a dance routine and the truth is, no one enjoyed Hocus Pocus for its tightly-knit storyline.
What was new for me this time though were the tears. The ending, which many have coined sappy and an attempt to de-witch the central villain, offers a poignancy and a new sentimentality that we didn’t experience in the original. We see our favourite witch in human form and, you know what, I kind of liked it. Perhaps it is my age or my own forged relationships with the females in my life but I reveled in that sense of sisterhood.
“My powers are nothing without my sisters”Winifred Sanderson
Hocus Pocus was a tough act to follow with an allegiance of fans now in their discerning 30s and pining after Max Dennison. The sequel didn’t quite put a spell on us but, the point is, it was never going to. The bittersweet-ness of growing up in the 90s is that we crave that feeling – that inexplicable warmth and sense of security that Hocus Pocus perfectly conjured up for us. As grown adults, those feelings are not as accessible as Disney+. They require a VHS player and the sound of a rewinding tape. But for me, a woman in her mid-thirties who is also now a fan of a child named Retinol, even if I wasn’t bewitched by this follow up, for 100 minutes or so I was reminded of that simpler time we’re all secretly longing for.