(2022) (Whitney Peak, Bette Midler) (PG)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Comedy: Teenage friends must contend with the return of three infamous witch sisters who are seeking revenge and ultimate power.
It's present-day in Salem, Massachusetts, and Becca (WHITNEY PEAK) is turning sixteen. While she plans to celebrate with her friend Izzy (BELISSA ESCOBEDO), those two have had a falling out with their other friend, Cassie (LILIA BUCKINGHAM), whose dad, Mayor Traske (TONY HALE), is running for reelection.
Their day, however, is about to change when Becca and Izzy visit the local magic shop run by Gilbert (SAM RICHARDSON) who teaches tourists all but the legend of the town's infamous Sanderson sisters, believed to be witches back in the mid-1600s. Due to the effects of a magic candle, those adult siblings -- Winifred (BETTE MIDLER), Sarah (SARAH JESSICA PARKER), and Mary (KATHY NAJIMY) -- return to their former town with revenge in mind, mainly focused on Mayor Traske whose ancestor was the local preacher who did the sisters wrong back in the day.
With Becca and Izzy trying to warn Cassie about the danger facing her dad -- and hoping to mend their broken friendship -- Gilbert brings back to life a zombie, Billy Butcherson (DOUG JONES), who believes he's been resurrected to help stop the witchy sisters.
- OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Years before I started seeing almost every new film release as a movie reviewer, I was seeing almost every new film release due to being an aspiring screenwriter. After all, what better way to learn and study what does and doesn't work from a storytelling angle than experiencing new offerings out in the field? Accordingly, I saw a lot of movies I otherwise probably would have skipped had I been an average moviegoer.
One of those -- three years before I unofficially kicked off my reviewing life -- was "Hocus Pocus," a lighthearted comedy/"horror" film featuring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson sisters. They were three witches from back in the Salem Witch Hunt days who were accidentally resurrected on present-day Halloween and had just one day to try to make their return permanent before going all "here comes midnight" Cinderella in the witching world.
I wasn't impressed at the time and don't remember much about the flick -- granted, it's been nearly thirty years since I saw it-- beyond Midler's oversized prosthetic teeth and some serious campy vamping, so to speak, from the leads. Notwithstanding my view and that of most critics at the time, the film eventually gained somewhat of a cult following -- Halloween always helps in such regards -- and has now spawned a sequel that's debuting not in theaters like its predecessor, but instead on Disney+.
And you know what? I probably won't remember much about this offering in thirty days, let alone the same number of years. My apologies to anyone who loved -- or came to love -- the original and likely will react the same way, but this is just as mediocre, flat, uninspired, and thus forgettable as its predecessor. And that's too bad since the world could use some films that are just scary enough to unsettle kids while also entertaining them like a good haunted house ride or attraction.
After a prologue featuring the sisters as kids in 1600s-era Salem, the story unfolds in the present day on the 16th birthday of Becca (Whitney Peak). While she intends to celebrate with one of her friends, Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), they're on the outs with the third friend, Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), whose dad (Tony Hale) is the mayor running for reelection. Oh, and he just so happens to be a descendant of the fire and brimstone preacher who made the kid sisters' lives a living hell back in the day.
When a magic candle from a magic shop owned by Gilbert (Sam Richardson) ends up lit by a virgin - that being Becca and Izzy -- the witches are summoned from the thereafter and revived. Not only are they hungry for the taste of kids, but they also want to get revenge on the mayor for being biologically tied to that preacher, and they want to use a spell that will not only get the job done, but also make them all-powerful in the process.
And thus, the girls set out to stop that from happening, all while Gilbert ends up partnered with the revived zombie corpse of Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones) who's under the mistaken assumption the magic shop man has the same goal as the teenagers. To be fully transparent, and despite just a handful of days having passed since I watched the film, I sort of forget what happens after that.
That is, beyond two song covers performed by the witches -- a variation of Elton John's "The Bitch is Back" and Blondie's "One Way or Another'' -- that had me hoping that director Anne Fletcher and scribe Jen D'Angelo film would at least turn this into a full-fledged musical to keep me awake and show some enhanced creativity, like a supernatural version of "Glee."
Alas, that doesn't happen. As a result, and unless you're a diehard HP fan, a working film critic, or an aspiring screenwriter, you'd be wise to pass on this lackluster offering. "Hocus Pocus 2" rates as a very generous 4 out of 10.
Posted September 30, 2022
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