‘Hocus Pocus 2’ review: Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker talk about the same old brew on Disney+


Disney routinely wrings excessive mileage out of nostalgia, which can easily obscure the time when the source material wasn’t as praiseworthy as we like to remember. “Hocus Pocus 2” should benefit from this dynamic, delivering an airy sequel – 29 years later – that should make it easy for families to watch Halloween within the less demanding confines of Disney+.

The costumes and shoes still suit Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson sisters, who can even sing a jukebox-style version of a certain Elton John song, understated and cold, as as additional content. to help promote the film.

Yet what makes this “Hocus Pocus” freeze is the clever mix of old and new, replicating the original’s basic pattern while introducing a new, more diverse contingent of teenagers to battle age-old witches. Throw in a few “Veep” alumni (Sam Richardson, Tony Hale) and three decades of technological advancements to dazzle and confuse the central trio (automatic doors and Alexa really are like sorcery to prying eyes), and you have a humor model that fits perfectly into the original mold, while slightly expanding it.

It takes a bit too long for the film’s charms to kick in, as the film begins with a 12-minute Sandersons origin story that’s perhaps most memorable for a “Ted Lasso” Hannah Waddingham cameo. Director Anne Fletcher (“The Proposal”) and writer Jen D’Angelo then move on to introduce a pair of teenage misfits (“Gossip Girl’s” Whitney Peak and Belissa Escobedo), who enjoy hanging out at the local magic shop, where the landlord (Richardson) helps plant the seeds for the Sandersons’ final revival.

As usual, the kids end up having to do the heavy lifting to fight off the menace, with the Sandersons again showing a mixture of malevolence and incompetence, starting with the vulnerability of their magic to several grains of salt.

Luckily, the younger contingent turns out to be a nice enough bunch, though the Disney Channel thread running through it — involving a distant friend (Lilia Buckingham) who ditched her old pals for popular kids — doesn’t exactly smack of the freshness.

Again, this kind of film hardly needs to reinvent the cauldron, representing more of a cut-and-paste job. To its credit, the movie still manages to be smart about weaving in callbacks to the original, like the trio’s wacky synchronized march, without overdoing it.

While the not-too-scary hijinks are okay for kids, these scenes will likely give more kick to parents who saw the movie a long time ago, helping to make it a Halloween favorite. In practical terms, just seeing the directors reprise their roles should generate enough marketing heat to make this a winner for Disney’s streaming service, without giving up too much money by not releasing the film in theaters.

By that measure, “Hocus Pocus 2” finds what equates to the streaming sweet spot, feeling just big enough, but not too big. There’s more chemistry than science to this formula, but over Disney’s long history of live-action remakes and revivals, it takes some skill to serve the brew in a worthy way. the penalty.

“Hocus Pocus 2” premieres September 30 on Disney+.