Fans of Disney’s Hocus Pocus have waited twenty-five years for a sequel to the hilarious and heartwarming film starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. While the original cast and creative team are ready and willing to revisit their old tricks, Disney isn’t prepared to give us that treat… With the exception of Disney’s Freeform Books, which is publishing Hocus Pocus & the All-New Sequel on July 10th. So light your black flame candle and cozy up with a boooOOOOOK to get a glimpse at what a sequel could actually be like.
Out of 521 pages, the first 197 recount the events of the original film. Readers may be tempted to skip past them, but I encourage you to at least skim it. Author A. W. Jantha has altered a few moments that set up new characters in the sequel that weren’t in the original film, which would cause some confusion if left unread. (Note: If you can find a copy at a reasonable price, the original Junior Novelization from 1993 was based on the script and contains deleted scenes, which are not included in this version).
The sequel takes place in 2018, twenty-five years since the Sanderson Sisters last stepped foot on earth. Poppy is the daughter of Max and Allison and she isn’t crazy about Halloween due to her parents’ and aunt’s insistence that they brought the witches back to life in their youth. Trying to impress a popular girl she has a crush on, Poppy and her best friend Travis sneak into the Sanderson house on All Hallow’s Eve during a blood moon and accidentally bring the witches back to life!
The book explains that a blood moon on Halloween would be an exceptional night for magic. Only on a night like this could the Sanderson Sisters use the moonstone to unleash a powerful evil spell that could wreak havoc over the entire world… if they could find it. It’s up to Poppy, Travis, and Isabella to find the moonstone and destroy it before the witches can get it.
Like all reboots and delayed sequels this era, this follow-up is plagued by a plot where history merely repeats itself, homages to the original feel forced, and character arcs feel unnatural. “Ice,” for example, is Poppy’s high school principal, and Max is her history teacher who refuses to follow the Salem tradition of recounting the Sanderson story on Halloween because he’s still traumatized by it. All of the characters from the original are merely side characters this time around, with a new generation of kids taking center stage.
Poppy is likable and relatable enough for readers to get hooked into her story. It takes a while to get going, but the exposition is essential for the reader to have any kind of emotional connection to her. The plot device to bring the Sanderson Sisters back is fun and different, although it brings up some other questions that go unanswered (ironically, they’re mostly about Winnie’s spell book).
Speaking of the “Sistas,” Winifred, Sarah, and Mary don’t get enough time in the spotlight in the 324 pages that occupy this untitled sequel. When they do, their dialogue seldom reads as funny, nor does it have the same musicality that the original script empowered the actresses with. It all sounds clunky, it’s hard to picture the character’s saying some of these lines, and their primary objective this time around seems too grand and sinister, even for them. The original is so charming because their motives are entirely selfish. This time around, they are acting in the best interest of their master and it’s hard to imagine them doing someone else’s bidding.
Hocus Pocus & the All-New Sequel fails to capture the magic and fun of the original story on almost every account. However, it’s mostly harmless and has a few moments of genuine delight. Those who find themselves enjoying it will love the “post-credit tag” for a possible third story. But the majority of Hocus Pocus super fans will be left with an unquenched thirst for a real sequel from the original film’s cast and creative team. Dear Disney, “Dost thou comprehend?”
Hocus Pocus fans looking for a good book that celebrates the greatest Halloween film of all-time should also check out Hocus Pocus in Focus by Aaron Wallace.