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Hocus Pocus 2 Review: The Fall of Winnifred Sanderson

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UWindsor chapter.

Hocus Pocus 2, directed by Anne Fletcher, is officially part of the long list of Disney movies trying to vindicate its villains.   

For context, the Hocus Pocus films follow three witches from Salem, Massachusetts, Winnifred “Winnie” (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary (Kathy Najimy), known as the Sanderson sisters. The first movie is set in 1693 and starts with the execution of the sisters, though not before Winnifred could cast a curse of her own: If a virgin lights the Black Flame candle during a full moon on Halloween, the sisters can be resurrected and wreak havoc on Salem..

The ambiguous ending of the first movie is the main reason the sequel exists. The last scene reveals Winnie’s spell book (aka Book) opening his eye, suggesting that the Sandersons sisters could one day utilize his spells to return. In fact, in the second movie, Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) accidentally resurrect the Sanderson sisters with another Black Flame candle that Gilbert (Sam Richarson), the biggest fan of the three witches, gave to them for Becca’s sixteenth birthday. The Sanderson sisters are back 29 years later, and now Becca, Izzy, and her friend Cassie begin to chase them across Salem to stop them from creating chaos again. 

In this article, I will discuss how Hocus Pocus 2 destroyed the character of Winnifred Sanderson by trying to change her personality back and forth throughout the film. So if you haven’t watched the movie, I recommend you do it before reading this analysis as it contains spoilers. 

The Fall of Winnifred Sanderson

With the new live-action movies, Disney tries to justify the illicit actions of its villains whenever they get the chance. Now, it’s all about blaming the circumstances that led to their cruel behaviour. 

Hocus Pocus 2 is set in Salem in 1653 and begins with a young Winnifred Sanderson running back to her house after receiving the news from Reverend Traske (Tony Hale) that she’s old enough to get married. It’s also Winnie’s birthday, so her sisters have prepared a celebration for her in their house, but they are quickly interrupted by Reverend Traske and the whole town that want to confront Winnifred. Winnifred refuses to get married soon, so the Reverend decides to banish Winnifred from Salem and take her sisters away. Winnifred refuses to lose Sarah and Mary, so the three of them run to the forbidden forest, where they meet a powerful witch who reminds them they are lucky to have each other. 

Where does Winnifred’s sudden display of love for her sisters come from? This contradicts both movies because Winnifred always complains about how dumb and useless her sisters are, notably Sarah. There’s even a scene in the first film where the three sisters are unsure about whether they are going to step onto the street or a black river, so Winnie and Mary decide to throw Sarah to the street and see what happens. In the sequel, there’s also a scene where the three sisters are at Walgreens, and Winnifred, crying, says: “We must brew the life potion, or our fate will be sealed at sunrise,” to which Mary replies: “Do you want to hit me?”. Winnie then hits Mary’s hand and slaps Sarah for a dumb comment. 

In this new sequel, the audience is never 100% sure about the nature of Winnifred’s relationship with  her sisters. Why show the audience a scene where the Sanderson sisters were young and loved each other, if, in the first movie, this wasn’t the case? It’s something that feels abnormal to explain after seeing the first Hocus Pocus film. It felt as if the director was trying to rewrite Winnifred’s iconic personality throughout the movie deciding whether or not she was capable of losing her sisters to survive and become the most powerful witch, which brings me to the ending of the sequel. 

In a fiction movie, an antagonist is the character who causes chaos until the credits roll. In fact, without an antagonistic force, a film is not entertaining, dynamic, and worthy to watch. In Hocus Pocus 2, we don’t only start losing one of the main character’s personalities; we completely lose the antagonist! 

Becca, Izzy, and Cassie discover that the sisters want to attempt to cast a Magica Maxima spell that will give them ultimate power. But with the help of Book, they find out that to have Magica Maxima, one must sacrifice something they love. 

Winnifred knew that the spell had consequences, but didn’t know how severe they might be. However, she did it regardless of the ramifications because that’s her true self. That’s how powerful and evil she is, and for a moment, the audience got a glimpse of Winnifred Sanderson from the first movie. That moment only lasted two seconds because we know Disney writers are trying to transform their villains into victims, erase their evil pasts and try to write a new storyline at the moment that makes a great character seem weak. When Winnie realizes that having Magica Maxima means giving up her sisters, she decides not to go through with the spell. Instead, all three of them vanish into sparks.

Winnifred Sanderson is not the first Disney villain who has vindicated themself. Two other examples are the movies Maleficent (2014) by Robert Stromberg, starring Angelina Jolie, and Cruella (2021) by Craig Gillespie, starring Emma Stone. Both Maleficent and Cruella are known as the most impressive Disney villains. However, their power, evilness, and strong capabilities were overshadowed by their experiences from the past that nobody knew existed. 

So what are the consequences of transforming villains into victims? We now know it’s not only the wrong choice for the authenticity of the story and the character, but it’s also something that affects the audience’s perception. Disney’s target audience is children. Therefore,  when a kid watches a movie like Hocus Pocus 2, Maleficent, or Cruella, it is telling them that no matter the danger you cause in the present, you will always have redemption and forgiveness because of your past. In most cases, someone evil can become good again if you give them the opportunity.

Overall, Hocus Pocus 2 is still a great movie to watch on a Sunday if you just want to relax and let your mind wander, even though  it will never be as iconic as the original. Enjoy Hocus Pocus 2 on Disney+!

Montse Pineda

UWindsor '25

Montse is an international student from Mexico. She is a film production student at UWindsor. She enjoys watching movies, getting to know female directors, and talk about the film industry in general. In her free time, she enjoys creating and sharing her art with others.