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SYFY WIRE Hocus Pocus

Critics call 'Hocus Pocus 2' a spooky, nostalgic return that doesn't always bring the magic

Hocus Pocus is back, but can the sequel measure up to the original?

By Matthew Jackson
Hocus Pocus 2

Hocus Pocus is finally back. This weekend, Disney will release the long-awaited sequel to the original Halloween staple on the Disney+ streaming service, reuniting the Sanderson Sisters for one more Halloween night of mayhem nearly three decades after our first visit to Salem. 

This time around, the Sandersons (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker) unexpectedly return to their hometown after Becca (Whitney Peak) and her best friend Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) unwittingly resurrect them through a black flame candle (you don't want to leave those lying around Salem) during a ritual. With nothing but a couple of teenage girls standing in their way, the sisters return to walk the streets on Halloween night, seeking a little of their old magic that just might keep them around forever this time, as well as a couple of song and dance numbers along the way. 

If you're a longtime fan of the original, you know the formula by now, but how does the new Hocus Pocus compare to the old? Does Hocus Pocus 2 retain any of that old magic? The first reviews for the sequel dropped Thursday morning, and the majority of critics seem to agree that the new film is, if not original, at least quite a bit of fun. Here's what some of the top reviewers had to say:

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"Hocus Pocus 2 successfully does what many delayed sequels fail to do: capture the magic of the original, without feeling like a hackneyed facsimile meant to placate. The balance between nostalgia and newness is always a hard one to achieve, but the creators of the sure-to-be-beloved sequel have struck gold," Gabriella Geisinger wrote at Digital Spy.

"Hocus Pocus 2 empowers and delivers on the encore we’ve been waiting 29 years for. And we hope we can revisit the past and future of this universe sooner rather than later. Next Halloween, please?," Sabina Graves wrote at io9.

"The first Hocus Pocus was a cackling cauldron of camp chaos, and that's where the sequel excels: The three original stars zap back into their roles as if they've been conjured straight from the original (seriously, watch both movies back to back). They seem to be having a rollicking old time, hilariously stalking through the frame as one and firing off zingers with relish. SJP in particular steals countless frames with her comic capering in the background. In at least one scene the trio's laughter seems real," Richard Trenholm wrote at CNET.

But of course, not everyone was quit so impressed, as some critics acknowledged the fun of the sequel while pointing out that it often feels a bit too much like a rehash.

"Recycled plot points, jaunts down memory lane and knowing winks at the broader fandom are rolled into the type of sleek CGI package that’s typical of Disney offerings these days. The result is a thin but satisfactory piece of entertainment," Lovia Gyarkye wrote at The Hollywood Reporter.

And then there were those critics for whom the film just didn't land at all in its quest to reclaim the old magic of the original. 

"Things intermittently perk up, like a fish-out-of-water sequence in which the operatic Winifred (Midler), guileless Sarah (Parker), and daffy Mary (Najimy) mistake modern-day Walgreens cosmetics for the 17th-century potions they once knew. Yet the film keeps trafficking in overkill, almost as if it were designed with GIFs instead of narrative momentum in mind. For all its talk of virginal sorcery and child-hunting villains, the sequel comes off as more juvenile than its predecessor," Matthew Jacobs wrote at TV Guide.

"The best you can say for the movie is that Midler, Parker, and Najimy don’t treat this like an easy payday. They came ready to play, whether that means singing and dancing, riding on a Swiffer (they couldn’t find a broom, you see), or eating face cream at Walgreens. What little magic Hocus Pocus 2 contains is entirely because of them," Matt Singer wrote at ScreenCrush.

Find out for yourself how the film works when Hocus Pocus 2 hits Disney+ on Friday.

Looking for more ghostly action? Check out the first season SYFY's SurrealEstate in the SYFY app — and get ready — because the series is gearing up for a whole new season of scares and chills!