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'Hocus Pocus 2' is just another modernized classic

<p>Featured Image from <a href="https://assets-prd.ignimgs.com/2022/09/26/hocus-pocus-2-poster-1664214288031.jpeg" target="_blank">IGN</a></p>

Featured Image from IGN

Hocus Pocus 2 is pretty much exactly what you would expect to see from a modernized rendition of the original film. Twenty-nine years after Max Dennison lit the black flame candle the Sanderson sisters are accidentally brought back for a Halloween night of revenge on Salem, again. As it turns out Max, Dani and Allison were not alone during their fight with the sisters at the cemetery in 1993, leaving a young boy, named Gilbert, with a lasting impression. Then, as owner of the Olde Salem Magic Shoppe, the Sandersons’ former home, in modern Salem he tricks three young girls into lighting a new black flame candle. After being brought back and tricked by teens twice, the Sanderson sisters are furious and find themselves reaching for more power.

Trying to do too much

The movie opens on a young Winifred Sanderson’s 16th birthday, as she storms through 1653 Salem after being told she is to marry John Pritchett. After causing a town disturbance with her rage, Winifred is banished and she and her sisters take off into the Forbidden Woods. Here, they run into a cloaked woman with silver hair: a witch. Though this witch is never named, as she passes along her spell book to Winifred, it can be assumed that this is who the sisters so often refer to as Mother Witch.

This opening scene does a good job of providing the audience with a little extra backstory and provides an opening, and a little bit of foreshadowing, for many of the plot points for the rest of the film. However this scene, and seeing familiar actors, was about all that kept me interested. 

Image from D23

As 1653 Salem faded into modern day Salem and the audience was introduced to Becca (Whitney Peak), Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), the new protagonists of the story, I found myself already losing interest in them. The fractured friendship we are introduced to does nothing to add to the story nor does it add to the characters' likeability. They are merely a typical girl group split up by modern popularity issues who happen to light a candle and bring back a few Salem witches. Oh, and one of them is apparently a witch herself. 

Honestly, during any scenes that showed these three I found myself zoning out. Between the dumb jock dating the shy outcast relationship trope and the two inseparable friends trope, there was nothing new to care about. The development of the new characters was severely lacking and I feel like the time spent developing plots could have been spent curating better, more unique characters. 

Not only does the audience have to follow this plot line with no real resolution, they also have to keep up with Gilbert. As part of his prize for helping raise the Sanderson Sisters, Gilbert was tasked with gathering ingredients for the forbidden spell "Magicae Maxima," only this task must be completed in one hour or he will die, so not much of a prize. One ingredient on this list included a lover's head, leading Gilbert to unearth Billy Butcherson, again. This plot point brings out the truth about the Winifred-Billy-Sarah affair. 

Speaking of the sisters, they have two plot lines themselves! Comedy and revenge. The comedy being the backbone of the film and the revenge plot bringing them to the blood of an enemy. These plot lines; however, felt less annoying to watch as they added more to the overall plot than the rest. The comedy style also just felt more in tune with the style of both this and the original film. 

Unanswered Questions

With all of the plot lines to follow it's not surprising that there would be some plot holes and unanswered questions. For example, in the beginning, though we can infer that the woman we meet is the Mother Witch, it is never explained who she is nor what her role is in the story. This also brings to question the sisters' birth parents and who they are, as they are not present in the opening scene. Though these holes don’t distract from the goal of the film it does bring up a few questions. 

Further into the movie; however, as Becca celebrates her 16th birthday and completes her yearly candle lighting ritual, she begins to exhibit signs of witch powers herself. Not only was it an uninspired idea to give the sequel character her own powers to fight with, but there was also zero explanation as to why or how she has powers. This was simply bad character writing and felt like an afterthought. 

Speaking of afterthoughts, the end credit scene left the door wide open to a trilogy that nobody asked for. After one underwhelming sequel, 30 years after the original, there is no need to expand on the classic anymore. 

It's just a bunch of Hocus Pocus

All that being said, the movie was not all bad. The homages to the original kept my interest enough to make up for most of the issues. The simple details, like a black cat in the magic shop and the Mother Witch costume color palette, referencing Thackary Binx and Dani Dennison brought a touch of thought to the film, as well as The Sanderson Sisters' new modern problems that reference the original problems they faced in 1993. 

For instance, a pit stop at Walgreens where Winifred pushes Sarah through the automatic doors, references the time Winifred pushed Sarah into the road they thought was a "black river." And instead of flying on a clunky 1990s vacuum, Mary now cruises the skies on two robotic vacuums. Where in 1993 they would have run into a dog in a devil costume, in modern-day Salem they find a virtual home assistant protecting the house. And finally, in true Sanderson fashion, a song to bewitch the townspeople for the night references their performance in the original. In 1993 they performed a rendition of “I Put a Spell On You” by Screamin' Jay Hawkins at a town costume party, but this time a Sanderson Sister Costume Contest provided the sisters a spotlight for a rendition of “One Way Or Another” by Blondie, turning the town festival into a flash mob.

In contrast to the rest of the movie, each of the Sanderson sister scenes felt well done and thought out. The comedy style and timeline of each major comic skit followed very closely to the original film with new modernized ideas. When Mary came flying out of Walgreens on two robotic vacuums to serve as another modernized broom, the atmosphere erupted with laughter from the audience, proving this point. 

With 30 years to develop the movie I feel that Anne Fletcher, the director, fell flat and the film was disorganized. Though all in all, for the excitement based around it, where I felt like the writing and character development were lacking, the nostalgia and comedy held up to what was expected.

Sources: IMDb, IMDb, IMDb, IMDb, IMDb, Spotify, Spotify, IMDb

Photos: IGN, D23

Contact Savannah Baird with comments at smbaird2@bsu.edu or @photo_savyy on Instagram.