In 2019, Disney announced that Hocus Pocus 2 was in development. The film is slated for release in 2022, and due to its predecessor’s cult status, fans are excited. While the original has become a Halloween classic, fans nostalgic for the 1993 film may be setting themselves up for disappointment.
The flop that made it big
With such low scores from critics and an initial bomb at the box office, why is a sequel in the cards? My thoughts? Simple ‘90s nostalgia.
In the decades after its initial 1993 theatrical run, the movie has garnered a cult following, especially among ‘90s kids (those who grew up in the ‘90s). The film fared better commercially in the 2000s and 2010s, attracting millions of fans and culminating in a pandemic-era re-release, during which, it finished second only to Christopher Nolan’s Tenet.
I believe this second wind is not because people have suddenly realized Hocus Pocus is a creatively impressive masterpiece, but because the kitsch is fun and the premillennial aesthetic reminds us of simpler times.
Cheesy but fun cinema
Hocus Pocus is an unapologetically fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The non-CGI gags work well with zombies getting their heads knocked off, talking British cats, translucent green-screened ghosts and witches casting lightning zap spells.
The performances are totally over-the-top and suited to the choreographed musical numbers and jokingly self-aware dialogue. Throughout the film, Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker steal the show with their spooky, synchronized performances as resurrected Salem witches. Everything about this film, from the moronic school bullies, self-serious teen protagonist, dated pop culture references, overly theatrical score and bad special effects make Hocus Pocus the most “‘90s” movie ever.
All these elements are great because Hocus Pocus doesn’t try too hard to be something it’s not. In a way, it almost feels like it might be in on its own joke.
So, is it a good, 95-minute flick that can serve as atmosphere or background noise while you prep for a Halloween party? Sure, but it’s not good. And that is my chief concern with Hocus Pocus 2.
Nobody cares what happened to Max Dennison
In an era of excessive remakes, reboots and sequels, any potential continuation of a cinematic franchise should justify itself. The reason Hocus Pocus 2 doesn’t, is because Hocus Pocus, as a franchise, is over.
If the first movie of a franchise showcases impressive storytelling or worldbuilding or introduces some fascinating characters or mythos, I think it’s fair game for exploration in a sequel. But who finishes Hocus Pocus and asks, “I wonder what happened to Max Dennison?” (That’s the protagonist, by the way, and I wouldn’t blame you for forgetting). Hocus Pocus is a stand-alone movie, and it should stay a stand-alone movie. But it won’t.
I bet there are hundreds of thousands of millennials who will buy tickets to Hocus Pocus 2, and Disney knows it. So, of course, they’ll make this movie and of course, they’ll pump millions of dollars into their budget and recruit A-list talent for the cast and crew to back it up.
Maybe this time Disney will use employ modern filmmaking technology and avoid the instantly dated effects of the original. Maybe this movie will receive better reviews and make more money in the process. But none of these efforts will recreate that ‘90s purity Hocus Pocus evokes. Why? Because Hocus Pocus didn’t have big funding or next-generation digital effects, and in that gap, it was able to create nostalgia-inducing magic. If you’re excited for Hocus Pocus 2, I don’t mean to kill your buzz. I just don’t have very high expectations for this sequel. Then again, that’s what everyone thought about Hocus Pocus when it was first released.