Do you ever walk around campus and get a spooky feeling? Do you sometimes feel like a Halloween movie could be filmed behind your dorm? If so, you’re not the only one. “Hocus Pocus 2,” a sequel to the 1993 cult classic “Hocus Pocus,” which was filmed about a year ago on the East Side of Providence, was released to the public Sept. 30 through Disney+.
“Hocus Pocus 2” has the difficult task of resparking the nostalgia and fun of the original film, while also providing a modern take. While the Sanderson sisters are better than ever, the story is a bit cheesy.
The film starts strong in Salem in 1653, where a young Winifred Sanderson (Taylor Paige Henderson) is banished after refusing to marry John Pritchett (Thomas Fitzgerald) at the order of Reverend Traske (Tony Hale). Winifred takes her two sisters, Mary (Nina Kitchen) and Sarah (Juju Brener), into the forbidden forest where they meet the Mother Witch (Hannah Waddingham) who gives Winifred a spell book and warns her about the all-powerful spell, Magicae Maxima.
The plot then jumps to Halloween night 2022, 29 years after the Sanderson sisters were resurrected in the original film. The story follows Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) as they prepare to celebrate Becca’s sixteenth birthday — which happens to fall on Halloween — while also trying to repair their relationship with their former best friend, Cassie Traske (Lilia Buckingham), a descendent of Reverend Traske.
Becca, who is fascinated by crystals and magic, visits the local magic shop — formerly the Sanderson cottage — where she is given a candle by the owner. Little does she know this is another Black Flame Candle which resurrects the Sanderson sisters, bringing them back once again when Becca lights the candle later in the night.
The sisters decide that in order to ensure that they stay around forever, they must cast the Magicae Maxima spell, which leads them on a chase to hunt down the ingredients alongside the magic shop owner whom they threatened. The ingredients include a petrified spider, the head of a former lover and the blood of their enemy — who after all of these years, is still Reverend Traske. With the Reverend long departed, the sisters settle on the blood of one of his descendents, either Cassie or her father, Mayor Traske (Tony Hale).
Everything involving the new characters feels a bit forced and boring — the attempts at modern lingo and jokes are cringeworthy and overzealous. The characters are predictable and do not help move the plot along. It seems as though new characters are added just so the movie does not rely entirely on the plot of the Sanderson sisters, not because their narratives help flesh out the movie’s world. With a little more thought, the modern cast could have been a great addition. Instead, they serve as an annoying force on the screen that should be skipped over. But, while these modern characters fail to impress, the modern setting does offer a nice background for the Sanderson sisters, who hold the film together.
Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Naijimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker P'25) in their modern-day adult forms are just as fun and crazy as always, as if no time has passed at all. Even the young version of the Sanderson sisters are able to capture the mannerisms and hilariousness of the characters perfectly. One of the highlights of the film is when the three sisters go to a Walgreens in the modern day. The sisters are amazed by all of the products as they look for “potions with children’s souls,” which they are told by Becca and Izzy are anti-aging lotions. Once they realize they have been tricked, they make a hilarious attempt at finding brooms to fly on so they can find the rest of the ingredients for their potion — Winifred finds a normal broom, while Mary uses two Roombas on each foot and Sarah uses a Swiffer Wet-Jet.
The film is able to evoke just the correct amount of nostalgia without being overbearing. There is a cat that looks exactly like Thackery Binx (voiced by Jason Marsden), a feline star of the original film. Winifred’s former lover, Billy Butcherson (Austin J. Ryan), once again makes an appearance. The sisters sing and hex the town, and the same major plot point — the sisters finding a way to stay in Salem past sunrise — drives the story forward.
In a completely unexpected turn of events, the ending of this film is surprisingly emotional, and ties the “Hocus Pocus” series up nicely without leaving the viewer with any further questions. If you’re looking for a fun, nostalgic and spooky evening, this movie is for you. If you’re looking for anything else, this might be a skip.
Rebecca Carcieri is an arts & culture editor. She is a senior from Warwick, Rhode Island studying political science.