Where I Watched It: Disney Plus
Audio Description Provided By: (If you managed to understand that, you should be a code breaker for the CIA)
Written By: Lindsay West
Narrated By: Laura Post
This is one of those things that magically happens when fans will something into existence. It’s like Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but the Disney equivalent. People have loved the Sanderson sisters for the better part of almost 30 years, despite the box office failure of that film. It has thrived, and fans even got a Hocus Pocus themed addition to Mickey’s not So Scary Halloween a few years ago that now runs every season at Disney World. you could say, they put a spell on us.
But then, we have this Disney Plus fever. Streaming fever. It’s this impulse to churn out product, quickly, and without much love and care put into the projects. If you want to know where Disney stands on this, you don’t have to look very far. Their live action remake of Pinocchio was so dismal, they dropped it the same day as they released Thor love and Thunder, not caring about even making Pinocchio’s drop feel special. Earlier this year, the house that Mouse built decided to make an ice Age sequel, with only one returning voice actor, and hire other actors to do impersonations of people like Ray Romano and John Leguizamo. After all, they don’t use the same voices for their TV shows… so what’s the difference?Why pay for the real thing, when you can just copy it?
So I’m not surprised that the film surrounding the return of the Sanderson sisters is beneath them. I’m sad, because they very much showed up. They thought a film that added Sam Richardson and Tony Hale was a good faith gesture that it was actually going to be a quality film. Hell, Kenny Ortega could have been invited back to at least direct this. Disney owes him a fair amount.
The movie doesn’t start off too bad. We flashback to the Sandersons as young girls, just starting to find their powers. At first, it was jarring, and my initial thought was who are these kids pretending to be the Sandersons? That poor girl who has to try and replicate Bette Midler, I just absolved her of everything. She tried so hard. None of this was her fault. Actually, the prologue to this is pretty good. It does cut in a weird spot, and then we meet Becca and Izzy. We get some loose description of the drama going on between them and their former friend, who has left them for a boy who eats two breakfasts.
What we never get are backstories for what essentially are our lead characters. This might surprise you, but Bette Midler is not the star. The girl plucked from obscurity to play Becca is. And she has zero backstory. No mention of families, we never see them. Becca and Izzy apparently just live by themselves or something. And while we’re told that every year they get together to do this ritual, we’re never told why. What made them start doing this. It’s really random. The worst part, and this is a tiny spoiler and I’m sorry, is that we’re never given an explanation as to how Becca has actual witch powers. Izzy does not. Becca actually can do shit. Izzy, who is always with Becca, is just like WTF the whole time.
There are very few characters in this. Becca and Izzy only run into important characters, like The mayor (Tony hale) who is really craving a caramel apple, and despite that he is the old one, he has no idea that GMA is Good Morning America, but these girls are really up on their adult daytime TV shows. He’s also the father of their former friend, and he was also seen in the prologue as another character. This makes Tony Hale ridiculously vital to the plot, even though he is not very bright, and spends most of his time fixated on an apple.
The only other character of relevance is Sam Richardson, who runs the museum and is now giving tours, and is an amateur magician. He also sells fake black candles, but gives Becca some gross grey candle which she takes. And of course, later they dig up Billy this time, who does have more dialogue the second time around, but really only serves as an ingredient.
When the Sandersons do come back, they do so in an actual musical number. It’s odd, in the middle of the woods, and it’s not the only musical numbers. It’s amazing how witches that have been dead for 300 years have kept up on popular music. Then the rest of the time they are on screen, it’s a retelling of the original film. They get mistaken as being cosplayers. They interact with technology to hilarious results. And somehow, they feel like they’re still only there briefly.
Some people will also mention Ted Lasso’s Hannah waddingham has a cameo. That’s true. It’s quite small, but pivotal. And still Becca has no parents.
In some ways, this film is pretty bad. but in other ways, it does hit that nostalgia button. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy all do great work. They showed up like no one has ever showed up before. Midler especially is phenomenal. The kids in the film aren’t bad. But, Sam Richardson and Tony Hale are acting like they thought this would be on the Disney channel. Their over exaggerated, dumbed down goofy mannerisms just make the film worse.
Some people love this. Hell, I love films too that are sequels to franchises I can never get enough of. i will never stop watching Jurassic anything films. Fallen Kingdom is a dumpster fire, but I’d still watch it again. it’s a Jurassic film. Where else can I get that raptor eating a human feeling?
So, by all means, go and enjoy what you can from this. But if you don’t like it, I also won’t be surprised. The bar was so high, and Disney didn’t even try. They just pumped out a sequel that feels like it’s been rewritten ten times, and had it’s budget slashed double that many.
The audio description, which I have to talk about, is not great. Laura Post is delightful as usual, but Lindsay West as the writer misses out on several opportunities. There are character introductions that are missed. We’re given the race of Becca and Izzy, but no one else. So I guess Salem only diversified itself with two people in the last 30 years. I love when we do find out the race of a character, because I recognize the importance of POC being able to know they are represented, especially in lead roles. It’s just odd that it stopped with those two. We also have location changes, like when the Mayor has to run back to his house, that are left out of the description altogether. And the biggest unforgivable sin, putting this in the least spoilery way, is that a character “exits” the film, but we’re not told how. There’s no description to that.
These are kind of basic things, and I know if came from a new company, one that just seemed to punch their keyboard and hit a bunch of random letters to create their name. Maybe that was the problem. but this is the least awesome narration laura Post has done, which is a shame, because her narration on the original is flawless.
I’ve been seeing reactions to this all over the place. This is just mine. You can have yours. Did this film put a spell on you?
Final Grade: C+