Disney regularly runs disproportionate mileage on nostalgia, which can easily obscure the source when it’s not as laudable as we’d like to remember it. “Hocus Pocus 2” should capitalize on that dynamic, offering a light-hearted sequel that should provide easy Halloween viewing for families with less demanding Disney+ constraints — 29 years later.
The clothes and shoes still politely fit the likes of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and the Kathy Najimy Sanderson sisters, and they can even pull out a jukebox-style version of a certain Elton John song, stone-cold, as extra content. to help promote the film.
However, what makes this “Hocus Pocus” gel is its elegant blend of old and new, repeating the basic template of the original while introducing a new and more diverse contingent of teenagers to do battle with centuries-old witches. Throw in a couple of “Veep” alums (Sam Richardson, Tony Hale) and three decades of technological advancements to dazzle and confuse the central trio (automatic doors and Alexa really are like magic to the uninitiated), and you’ve got one. A shot of humor that fits neatly into the original mold while expanding it a bit.
It takes a while for the film’s charms to kick in, as the film opens with a 12-minute Sanderson origin story, perhaps most memorable for a cameo by “Ted Lasso’s” Hannah Waddingham. Director Anne Fletcher (“The Proposal”) and writer Jen D’Angelo shift to introduce a pair of misfit teenagers (“Gossip Girl’s” Whitney Peak and Belissa Escobedo) who like to hang out at the local magic shop, where the owner (Richardson) plants the seeds for Sanderson’s eventual revival. it helps
As usual, the kids have to work hard to deal with the threat, with Sanderson again showing a mixture of cunning and incompetence, starting with the vulnerability of their magic to various grains of salt.
Fortunately, the younger contingent proves to be pretty likable, even if the Disney Channel thread – featuring an old friend (Lilia Buckingham) who ditched her old friends for popular kids – doesn’t exactly reek of freshness.
Also, this type of film hardly needs reinventing the cauldron, representing more than a cut-and-paste job. To its credit, the film still manages to be clever enough to throw in callbacks to the original, like the trio’s goofy synchronized walk, without overdoing it.
While the non-scary silents are kid-friendly, those scenes will give parents who caught the movie an extra kick, helping make it a Halloween favorite. In practical terms, seeing the leads reprise their roles should generate enough marketing heat to make it a winner for Disney’s streaming service without turning down too much money for not releasing the film theatrically.
By that measure, “Hocus Pocus 2” finds the playback sweet spot, feeling big enough, but not also big There’s more alchemy than science to that formula, but as Disney’s long history of live-action remakes and revivals goes, it takes a certain skill to serve up the brew in a way that’s worth the effort.
“Hocus Pocus 2” premieres Sept. 30 on Disney+.