“‘Retinol’…what a charming name for a child!”
Heather’s rating: 2 out of 5 floating Roombas
Heather’s review: It’s October, the month where I give my Shudder account extra love. This year, however, I started off my Halloween viewing with a sequel to one of my most nostalgic Halloween films: Hocus Pocus. The 1993 movie was a failure initially (gee, who would have thought releasing a film oozing with Halloween drip in summer wouldn’t do well?), but became popular on VHS and continually praised online.
Disney’s mouse ears stiffen at even a glimpse of a popular franchise opportunity, so now almost 30 years later we have a sequel to the movie that made many parents explain what “virginity” is to their small children.
The story this time follows a group of three longtime girlfriends (one of whom is a bit estranged after beginning to date THE POPULAR JOCK™) as they attempt to save their town from the return of the Sanderson Sisters (which they caused). Well, two of them caused. There is an extremely flimsy reason for one of the three girls not being as close to the others any longer, and their eventual reconciliation ties into the movie’s main theme of the importance of your friendship/coven.
Speaking of the main theme, that’s one thing this movie had in its favor. Though predictable and hammy, it’s still a huge improvement over the original’s creepy fascination with a 15-year old boy being a virgin. The other very surprisingly good bit of the film is the beginning, which follows the Sisters as children and how they got their powers. I know, I know, the idea made me groan too, but these kids do an absolutely amazing job of capturing the performances of the actresses from 29 years ago. If you don’t watch any of the rest of the film, check that part out.
It’s wonderful to see the chemistry of our three lead Sisters again, and the return of Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson. The problem is that it’s been 29 years — and that decline in energy really shows. There’s also just a lack of a real feeling of danger or concern for the characters’ lives like in the first one.
We get a lot of retreading of the same plot points from the first film. Kids light a black flame candle, witches come back (this time introduced with a cringy musical number!), seek revenge on the town, trying to find/keep BoooOOOOOOk, then being outsmarted and foiled by children.
Oh-ho, but I almost forgot there is one major difference: PRODUCT PLACEMENT, BAYBEE! You might want to grab an extinguisher for this scalding hot take I’m about to unleash, but I have to say it: There are too many darned ads everywhere. Thank you for sticking with me through that rant, I shall now reward you with My Point: Walgreens in the shot, Walgreens as the set, Walgreens in the dialogue.
I will concede that the drugstore is introduced via a funny plot point. The girls trick the Sisters into thinking that they no longer have to manually take the souls from children, because apothecaries now sell lotions and serums already imbued with Soul de Child. They’re talking about the Health/Beauty section of Walgreens. The girls save themselves with salt from the Walgreens shelf, the sisters get their broom, Swiffer, and two Roombas from Walgreens… it’s just a lot. Especially in a movie that’s not got a very strong story to begin with.
It’s a Disney sequel, which means that it’s just the same story as the first, hits you with many of the same nostalgic beats as the first (hey, remember when the sisters took over the crowd by singing a pop song?), and leaves you with even less impact than the first.
- Characters from the first movie are sprinkled throughout, especially during the crowd dance number.
- I got a chuckle out of the MC saying to Winifred “You must be looking for the stage” and Bette Midler responding “Always”.
- Mary’s lopsided smile is on the other side of her mouth, as the actress (Kathy Najimy) says she is no longer able to do it on her right side.
- It is a huge missed opportunity not to have Tony Hale (Buster from Arrested Development) wear a hook hand at some point. Instant deduction of one Roomba.