TUCSON, Ariz. — The internet has been clamoring for a "Hocus Pocus" sequel for so long that it was almost inevitable that the fulfillment of that wish would lead to disappointment.
The movie is a joyous lark rather than a mediocre disappointment that is nothing short of a magic trick. "Hocus Pocus 2" is about anything a fan could hope for.
The movie, which debuts on Disney+ Friday, lives up to the ludicrous level of hype that had surrounded it long before it actually existed.
The film follows the cult hit 1993 comedy. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy are back as the Sanderson Sisters, a trio of rambunctious witches with a tendency to return from the dead to terrorize Salem, Mass.
Spirited performances from all three — as well as a rich connection between them that has lost nothing over the decades — is the magic that makes this broom fly. Less intriguing is the new blood: A trio of high school witches (Whitney Peak, Lilia Buckingham, and Belissa Escobedo) who accidentally resurrect the Sandersons, then work to thwart their plans for mayhem.
The younger crew works best when their inner drama melts away, and they are left to gawk at the Sandersons' hijinks.
Prone to spontaneous song-and-dance numbers, acts of vandalism, and witty asides, the divas command attention at all times, always providing a mixture of good-natured humor, eye-rolling, and mild annoyance.
Director Anne Fletcher is all too aware that the film thrives when the Sandersons are on screen together and fizzles when they're off. She gets the most out of the kinetic actors that she can, even if the flimsy story falls by the wayside as a result.
"Hocus Pocus" 2 works because it has the same madcap feel as the original. This is a movie that could have been made in 1993. Like any effective nostalgia trip, the film seizes the moment and recaptures the same wacky wavelength as the original.
Here's hoping it won't take another 29 years for a third "Hocus Pocus."
RATING: 3 stars out of 4.