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‘Hocus Pocus 2’ Review: Still Spelling Trouble

Disney’s “Hocus Pocus” is one of the company’s few true cult classics; after an initial negative reception when it was released in 1993, the Halloween-themed comedy starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker as a trio of campy witch sisters gained a fan base through seasonal VHS rentals and repeated airings on ABC and the Disney Channel. And while its new sequel, “Hocus Pocus 2,” may be a blatant attempt by Disney to continue propping up its streaming platform Disney+ (where the movie has its debut), it manages to capture the same hokey magic of the original while creatively updating its humor.

In a slight retread of the first film’s plot, “Hocus Pocus 2” follows two present-day Salem teenagers, Becca and Izzy (Whitney Peak and Belissa Escobedo), who accidentally bring the witchy Sanderson sisters back to life while performing their yearly Halloween night ritual. (The teens’ interest in witchcraft and the occult is benign, a very 2022 detail that might not have come across the same way 30 years ago.) High jinks ensue as the girls race to stop the witches from kidnapping the town’s genial mayor (Tony Hale) and casting an immortality spell that would make them all-powerful, while also making amends with their former friend, the mayor’s daughter, Cassie (Lilia Buckingham).

Anne Fletcher (“Step Up,” “The Proposal”) directs this sequel, but follows the same goofy comedic approach of the Kenny Ortega-directed first film — namely, how the sisters react to modern inventions like robot vacuums, Amazon’s Alexa and Walgreens. Even a few meta-jokes nod to the Sanderson sisters’ popularity in the world of drag. Thankfully, with a cast rounded out by Doug Jones, Hannah Waddingham and Sam Richardson, the brew-haha’s aren’t solely concentrated in the three leads.

Hocus Pocus 2
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes. Watch on Disney+.

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