How 'Hocus Pocus' Went From Box Office Bomb to Disney's Halloween Darling

Jump back! The Sanderson Sisters return once more this week with the arrival of “Hocus Pocus 2.” And among critics, the sequel is faring better than its predecessor originally did — but only just.

For the most part, reviews seem to be split between enjoying the nostalgia of “Hocus Pocus 2,” and wanting it to build more upon the original. Where The Hollywood Reporter’s Lovia Gyarkye argues that the sequel “honors its history without knowing quite how to move beyond it,” and IndieWire’s Jude Dry says it “hews closely to the original, perhaps a little too much,” others disagree.

The AV Club’s Phil Pirrello wrote that “Using ‘Hocus Pocus’ more like a modular foundation than sacrosanct canon, director Anne Fletcher (Netflix’s “Dumplin’”) and screenwriter Jen D’Angelo find an inventive way of expanding upon the OG movie by reaching into the main characters’ past and softening the trio of witches’ more sinister edges as they once again wreak their unique, PG-brand of havoc on the town of Salem.”

IGN’s Amelia Emberwing noted that it’s odd the movie doesn’t film in Salem, but nonetheless, “It’s wonderfully nostalgic that ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ feels like the Disney Channel Original Movies of yore.”

Really, critics are just happy to see Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker back together again as the beloved witchy trio. “It’s the witches’ world; everything else is just scenery to get these three back on broomsticks together,” IndieWire writes.

And most critics agree that “Hocus Pocus 2” will fill the void for those who came up on the original.

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CNET’s Richard Trenholm wrote that “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.”

THR adds that “The Sanderson sisters remain the crown jewels.” Beyond the sisters though, the story doesn’t seem to be holding much water for critics.

There are those who found the smoother edges tough to stomach, however. USA Today’s Brian Truitt says, “While in the first film they were goofy women with a penchant for out-of-nowhere musical showstoppers, the sisters actually felt dangerous, since they were straight up murdering children for youthful makeovers. In the sequel, the Sandersons are mere filler, rather than killer, in their attempt to be all powerful, more inept than ever and, in Mary’s case, riding Roombas.”

As IndieWire sums up, “The script adds a saccharine sweetness along with its teen feminist morality play, as if it’s far too aware of sending a message. Some things, it seems, are better left buried.”

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