The year was 1993. Those of us born in the early ’80s sat gathered around our televisions to see what the newest Disney Channel movie was all about. Hocus Pocus, a Halloween-themed movie starring an already famous Bette Midler, a relatively famous Kathy Najimy, some young newbie by the name of Sarah Jessica Parker, and the adorable Thora Birch, was airing. It was the season for holiday-themed movies. We all watched. The movie was cute. Cheesy but adorable enough to be cute. And then something magical happened. The made-for-television movie became a legend. A cult classic we all grew up to continue watching every October. It became the official (yet unofficial) Halloween movie. Those of us who watched it when we were 10 grew up to have babies of our own, and now our own kids count down the days until October when we can sit down as a family and watch Hocus Pocus (and that one lady, Sarah Jessica Parker? Yeah, we watched her go from no one to Carrie freaking Bradshaw overnight) to kick off the holiday season. Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker are the Sanderson Sisters, and the first whispers of Hocus Pocus 2 had every 30 & 40-something mom in America ready.
Hocus Pocus 2 (Spoiler Alert!) Is Just Okay
Bette Midler – and her sisters – are phenomenal as the Sanderson Sisters. They’re scary while simultaneously being hilarious. They’re creepy and cooky, and they do make magic happen on screen. They were beautiful the first time, and they were wonderful the second time. However, the second movie did not do it for many of us. The plot was… not good. The casting of the new young girls who became the lead characters in the film (outside of the Sanderson Sisters, of course) was dull, emotionless, and boring. It was difficult to root for them or cheer for them as they just didn’t have much in the personality department in this one (though we are sure they are all lovely young women with serious talent – this script wasn’t it).
The only redeeming storyline in this movie is the presence of the sisters throughout. And the opening credits, in which we get to see the young sisters as they were before they realized their powers. Young Winifred, Young Mary, and Young Sarah Sanderson were amazing, and we almost wish the movie focused entirely on their story rather than the jumbled, not-entirely-concise script that it was given. It wasn’t terrible, but it did not live up to the first movie. How could it? It’s a classic.
Why Wasn’t There a Sequel Sooner?
Bette Midler has always been all about it. However, no one else seemed to follow her lead. “I’d suggested it to agents and producers, but no one had picked up on the cues,” Midler said after Sarah Jessica Parker pointed out that Bette Midler was vocal for many years about a sequel. The Sanderson Sisters have remained good friends over the past three decades. They get together, they have dinners, they have mutual friends, and they are always excited to see one another in public when they run into each other at an event.
Scheduling Three Major Superstars Is Not Easy
When Disney decided it was time, there were a few snags in the process. The first was COVID. The second was finding a time to make sure everyone was available to film at the same time. When you’re talking about three A-list actresses and their own schedules, finding free time is not always the easiest thing to do. It took a while. “I finished And Just Like That… at 8 o’clock on November 8, got in a van and drove to Providence and started Hocus Pocus 2 the next day. We finished on January 26 at 2 in the morning. I got in the van, drove back to New York and started rehearsals for the play the next day,” said Sarah Jessica Parker of filming her Sex and the City sequel, the movie, and then play rehearsals for Plaza Suite that also stars her own husband.
Furthermore, Parker had some problems getting back into character. Her ‘sisters’ did not, but Parker had never watched the first movie before. “I was terrified because I can’t bear watching myself. But I had to figure it out again, especially the physical movements. And it was actually fun,” she said about forcing herself to sit down and watch Hocus Pocus for the first time. She enjoyed watching herself, Bette Midler, and Kathy Najimy, and we can say she did get it right.
At the end of the day, the first movie is the best movie. The second doesn’t come close. But it will be on the list of family movies to watch every October as Halloween approaches. There’s nothing like the Sanderson sisters to put you in the holiday spirit, after all. They’re always a winning group.
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