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The Sanderson sisters are back in 'Hocus Pocus 2.' But why?

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's October, which means it's the spooky season. And for a lot of us, Disney's "Hocus Pocus" is an essential element of Halloween fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HOCUS POCUS")

BETTE MIDLER: (As Winifred) Twist the bones and bend the back.

SARAH JESSICA PARKER: (As Sarah) Itch-it-a-cop-it-a-Mel-a-ka-mys-ti-ca (ph).

MIDLER: (As Winifred) Trim him of his baby fat.

PARKER: (As Sarah) Itch-it-a-cop-it-a-Mel-a-ka-mys-ti-ca.

MARTIN: It's been 29 years since the Sanderson sisters first put a spell on its devoted fans, and now they're back. In it, we meet a new set of teenagers. Becca and Izzy are best friends who have a special Halloween ritual, but the candle they're using is cursed, so they end up conjuring the Sanderson sisters once again.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HOCUS POCUS 2")

MIDLER: (As Winifred) Lock up your children. Yes, Salem, we're back.

MARTIN: But how does it compare to the original? Here to answer that question and more is "Hocus Pocus" superfan, NPR's Mallory Yu. Mallory, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

MALLORY YU, BYLINE: Hi, Michel. It's good to be here.

MARTIN: So what did you think of the new movie overall?

YU: You know, I thought it was a fun, nostalgic ride. The new crop of teens in this movie are really cute. And I really liked that there wasn't a love interest in this one. It's all about the girls' friendships with each other at a time when that friendship is really vulnerable. And, of course, Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker are the real stars, and it's so fun to watch each of them. You kind of can't help but be buoyed along.

MARTIN: And reminded of the fact that when "Hocus Pocus" first came out in 1993, it wasn't well-reviewed at all, but it has endured. And I think it's fair to say it is a beloved cult classic. And I'm just wondering why you think that is.

YU: I mean, I think part of it is that many of the adults who are fans of it now, like me, were kids when it first came out. And we were just wowed by the effects, fascinated or scared of the witches. I think it's a cult classic because its camp. Camp is often a celebration of, like, quote-unquote, "bad taste." It's anti-serious. It's ostentatious and exaggerated. Think "Rocky Horror Picture Show" or "Hedwig And The Angry Inch." Wouldn't the Sanderson sisters fit right in? I mean, that famous musical number. Come on.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HOCUS POCUS")

MIDLER: (As Winifred, singing) Hello, Salem. My name's Winifred. What's yours? I put a spell on you. And now you're gone.

YU: The way Bette Midler struts on stage, the way her sisters sing backup, it calls to mind the best musical divas. And it also calls to mind the best drag performances. We queers love a campy witch, and "Hocus Pocus" gave us three, so it was thrilling. You know, watching this movie for me as a child felt like the equivalent of sneaking out of the house. You know, I felt like I was getting away with something naughty. So I think all of that contributes to this hold it has on millennials.

MARTIN: You know, it seems like every few months that there are remakes of movies that aired, you know, ages ago. So it's the hard question, Mallory, but do you think "Hocus Pocus 2" will be loved in the same way?

YU: I personally don't think it'll be beloved as a specifically camp classic in the same way. Ultimately, I think my biggest issue with "Hocus Pocus 2" is that it didn't move beyond the nostalgia of the old one. So yes, it's fun that there are more musical numbers in "Hocus Pocus 2," but that's barely enough to hang a witch's broom on, let alone an entire movie. And, OK, maybe it's unfair to expect anything deep or metatextual from "Hocus Pocus 2."

MARTIN: Maybe.

YU: But I think this is where I'm seeing that I'm definitely finding the limits of how far my own nostalgia can take me. And I don't think I'm alone.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Mallory Yu. Mallory, thank you so much.

YU: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.