Archive for October, 2022


Posted in Biography, Drama, Music with tags on October 26, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If an ordinary person — let’s say an American citizen — were asked to name a famous conductor, Leonard Bernstein would likely be the answer. Name a second, and they might struggle. Now ask for a female conductor, and you’d encounter a blank face. Orchestras can and do navigate their way through complex pieces of classical music without someone waving a baton in front of them. Yet the director of a classical performance remains a noble talent. Yes, they beat time by moving their hands up and down to the music, but they also select the score, interpret the piece, and prepare the musicians in rehearsal. Tár is a fictional profile of Lydia Tár, a captivating individual who has achieved excellence and renown in this field.

At its bare essence, Tár is the portrait of a woman, but that depiction is so thoroughly realized the film becomes a dazzling spectacle. She is an authoritarian, to be admired and hated. Watching Cate Blanchett inhabit this role is akin to an actress completely channeling a spirit. Lydia is, in fact, a protegee of Leonard Bernstein. She wields power over the Berlin Philharmonic like a massive colossus, controlling the orchestra literally and figuratively. Her angular visage, that broad forehead, and high cheekbones that converge to a pointed jawline are all the more emphasized. She is an assertive woman who barely acknowledges that she is female. Chilly, androgynous, and gifted — she is a force of nature, a talent that reached this influential position despite — or rather because of — a refusal to temper her opinion or behavior. This proves to be controversial as the story develops.

Tár is an account built upon the art of talking. It opens as she’s being interviewed onstage at Lincoln Center by a star-struck journalist, Adam Gopnik, culture writer for The New Yorker, playing himself. He rattles off her list of accomplishments that boast EGOT status – an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, a Tony. She has just written a memoir, “Tár on Tár,” and the public is hungry for more information. In a dialogue that makes no editing concessions to the rules of cinema, it feels like the full unedited interview from an actual TV show. Tar is relaxed but thoughtful as she pontificates on various topics. She bristles at the idea that women conductors be referred to as Maestra, the feminized form of Maestro. “They don’t call astronauts astronettes,” she offers as she confidently smiles at her own joke. That sets the tone as interactions with other people convey a multifaced personality.

The production highlights a highly eloquent screenplay. Actor/director Todd Field (In the Bedroom) has been attached to a plethora of projects over the past 16 years but hasn’t produced anything since Little Children in 2006. He writes and directs here. Occasionally his screenplay can feel a bit unwieldy and verbose. A meeting with Eliot Kaplan (Mark Strong), an investor and less accomplished conductor, goes on far too long. I lost the subject of their conversation at one point. However, more often than not, the dialogue is thrilling. It’s good to have Todd Field back, writing and directing again.

Tár is Cate Blanchett’s movie, but her dealings with other people elucidate her character. Lydia’s romantic partner is Sharon, but actress Nina Hoss is more than “the wife.” Sharon is First Violin, so she fully understands Lydia at work and home. They have a six-year-old adopted daughter named Petra (Mila Bogojevic), who accentuates Lydia’s protective mother instincts. Olga Metkina is the attractive young cellist (British-German musician Sophie Kauer) that captures Lydia’s attention in more ways than one. Then there’s her hard-working and long-suffering assistant Francesca (Noémie Merlant), waiting in the wings so she can one day be a conductor herself. Francesca keeps secrets and supports her boss at every turn…until she doesn’t. Things start to turn after Lydia, a guest lecturer at Juilliard, disagrees with a student (Zethphan Smith-Gneist) who dismisses the Western canon of people like Beethoven and Bach. Lydia rejects his evaluation of art based on identity politics, exhibiting bold confidence to express her opinion in an environment where people, wary of social media, often mince words. This confrontation, in a manipulated form, will return to haunt her.

To call Cate Blanchett, the best actress of her generation doesn’t seem like hyperbole at this point. An impressive filmography includes Elizabeth, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Lord of the Rings, The Aviator, Notes On A Scandal, I’m Not There, Blue Jasmine, Carol, and Thor: Ragnarok. Blanchett’s career may span genres and styles, but one thing holds. She elevates every production in which she appears. It seems crazy to say this of an actress with so many great performances, but Tár might be her most accomplished. She dominates every scene. Every so often, a performance is so mesmerizing, I can watch someone simply speak for 2 hours and 38 minutes, and I am enthralled. Cate Blanchett is that actress, and Tár is that movie.


Black Adam

Posted in Action, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Superhero with tags on October 23, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I don’t know how to enjoy a superhero picture like this anymore. As a coherent drama starring complex individuals with emotions that captivate your attention, Black Adam is awful. As a series of impressive special effects and explosions strung together in a halfhearted attempt at a story, it’s not….terrible. This is part of the DC Extended Universe which has been marred by more than a few clunkers: Man of Steel, Birds of Prey, and Justice League (both versions) being the most egregious examples. Comparatively, this is one of the better entries. I’d put it on the same level with films in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe, which include Marvel characters like Venom and Morbius. To quote Mongomery Burns in the Simpsons episode Brush with Greatness: “I know what I hate, and I don’t hate this.” So that’s a recommendation of sorts.

Part of my exasperation with this film is the convoluted exposition. Screenwriters Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani have injected irrelevant plot details. It begins 5,000 years ago in a fictional land called Kahndaq. The middle eastern country is on the Sinai peninsula. It’s vaguely Egyptian to anyone with a casual knowledge of geography. An ancient king named Anh-Kot enslaves his people to dig for a magical element called Eternium. He wishes to create the Crown of Sabbac that will imbue the wearer with great strength. A young boy (Jalon Christian) using the power of Shazam transforms into a mighty champion initially known as Teth-Adam. Out for revenge, he kills King Anh-Kot and ends his reign. Teth-Adam is subsequently imprisoned, but the human man evolves from a myth into legend. Khandaq is still oppressed in the modern day under the rule of the Intergang, a mercenary team led by the militant Ishmael Gregor (Marwan Kenzari). Will any hero emerge to save them?

That’s a cue for the usually affable Dwayne Johnson — in a surprisingly somber performance — to take the stage. Teth Adam — later christened Black Adam — seeks to free the citizens of Kahndaq from being oppressed. That’s good. However, he’s also a godlike force with an unlimited appetite for destruction. . Because of that, the Justice Society (not the League) of America need to curtail his power. Their leader Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), rounds up a team consisting of Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), and Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan). I guess Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were busy. I’m not a comic book aesthete, so I admit I am at a disadvantage. I rely on what is depicted here, but these characters emerge without explanation. Who are they? What can they do? Sorry. They simply appear and start doing magical things. When a poignant friendship between Hawkman and Dr. Fate is introduced, I felt absolutely nothing. Ditto for Cyclone and Atom Smasher’s developing romance.

Black Adam is a compelling character that straddles a murky line between a hero and a villain. He has an altruistic desire to help his community but remains a violent figure of chaos. The movie desperately clings to occupy a moral gray area for most of the production. A bigger threat looms when someone else takes the form of a demonic beast. The deeper we get into the picture, it’s clear that Black Adam is a good guy that is endearing. He was awakened from a 5,000-year slumber, so he’s got a lot to learn. Teen Amon Tomaz (Bodhi Sabongui) wants to help. Black Adam’s unfamiliarity with sarcasm is amusing. He attempts to incorporate it along with catchphrases into his interactions. The complicated exposition is merely an excuse to present an array of chaotic stuff. The production offers a lot of fights, chases, and battles for the viewer’s enjoyment. It’s never dull. I’ll give it that, so if you’re looking for action and excitement, it satisfies that department. Just don’t expect a meaningful story.


Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on October 22, 2022 by Mark Hobin

I review movies for UK-based talkSPORT radio. On Sunday, October, 9th, I discussed the star-studded mystery AMSTERDAM (in theaters) and the British comedy MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS (streaming on demand). My appearance begins 4 minutes into the 2:30-3:00 hour (26 minutes from the end) so just click on the link!

Source: Live Radio, Breaking Sports News, Opinion – talkSPORT

Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on October 22, 2022 by Mark Hobin

I review movies for UK-based talkSPORT radio. On Sunday, October 2nd I discussed action thriller THE WOMAN KING, the David Bowie doc MOONAGE DAYDREAM (both in theaters), and the comedy sequel HOCUS POCUS 2 on Disney+. My appearance begins less than a minute in, so just click on the link.

Source: Live Radio, Breaking Sports News, Opinion – talkSPORT

Significant Other

Posted in Drama, Horror, Mystery, Science Fiction with tags on October 19, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

It’s a shame that Significant Other is saddled with that title. It’s so generic; the name escapes me every time I try to recall it. The movie is substantially better than the label suggests. The production begins with a red meteor falling from the sky into the forest. Soon after, we see a deer unexpectedly grabbed by an eerie tentacle. The story then switches over to a couple in a six-year relationship. Harry enjoys camping and takes Ruth on a backpacking trip to the Pacific Northwest. She has prescient misgivings. You’ve seen this tale a dozen times before, right? That’s what you think.

So I’m impressed when I think I’m getting a predictable horror film and am pleasantly surprised by something that subverts my expectations. Taking risks doesn’t always reap the rewards. Unlike another recent slasher sequel to a decades-long franchise, Significant Other makes some bold swings that actually do connect. What seems to be a simple setup about “a terrifying creature in the woods” becomes much more. Writers and directors Dan Ber & Robert Olsen have fashioned a horror picture into a multilayered meditation on relationships with several twists and turns. It appears that Harry is deeply in love with Ruth. Her feelings are a bit more ambiguous. Ruth suffers from extreme anxiety and is not handling the outdoors very well. They hike to a gorgeous scenic overlook, and he proposes. Ruth has a panic attack and rejects his offer. That’s just the beginning of their problems.

Adding to the unsettling atmosphere is a pair of intriguing performances. Maika Monroe and Jake Lacy exhibit a range of emotions that often catch the viewer off guard. No stranger to being a scream queen, Monroe had her breakthrough in 2014 with It Follows. She followed that up with The Guest (2014), Greta (2018), and Watcher (2022). Meanwhile, Jake Lacy utilizes the same blend of drama mixed with subtle comedy on the HBO anthology series The White Lotus. Together they comprise an unstable duo that seizes our attention—two unique individuals with strange personalities. Neither can be trusted. Who are these people? Where should my loyalties lie? That’s all part of the fun. If a movie is to be judged by the shock of a reveal, then Significant Other satisfies with at least one (maybe two) that are off the charts.

Significant Other is currently streaming exclusively on Paramount+. 


Halloween Ends

Posted in Horror, Thriller with tags on October 16, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

It all comes down to this. The film that started things back in 1978 is a classic celebrated by critics and audiences alike. There have been so many movies with various timelines in this series. Most are pretty disposable, but any franchise with crowds still demanding entries 44 years later incurs a certain level of respect. Call me crazy, but I think Universal Pictures should’ve dubbed the latest picture what it really is: Halloween the 13th — a winking nod to another well-known horror anthology.

Halloween Ends is technically part three of a modern trilogy following 2018’s Halloween and 2021’s Halloween Kills. This has also been sold as the climactic chapter (note the title) of the entire franchise. That’s a lot of pressure to deliver. Unfortunately, Halloween Ends fails to satisfy either as a follow-up that honors what came before or as a new standalone story.

We expect certain things from a sequel. This entry has very little interest in involving the characters we know. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a minor presence in the narrative, and we don’t see the main villain Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney), for a full third of the chronicle. He takes a backseat to the action once he does. Director David Gordon Green has a different focus. The script he co-wrote with Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, and Danny McBride, introduces an entirely new and rather bland fellow named Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell). He’s a teen who accidentally kills a boy (Jaxon Goldenberg) while babysitting in an admittedly promising prologue. Side note: The child was misbehaving. He got his just deserts. Corey is cleared of manslaughter charges but becomes the town pariah. Corey is a sensitive kid, and the local bullies mercilessly harass him. He snaps. Michael Myers understands Corey’s torment and takes him under his wing — like a protégé.

Halloween Ends takes some big swings but ends up striking out. Introducing a brand new outcast as the star is a risk that doesn’t pay off. Corey subsequently gains the affection of Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). Their romantic entanglement is a major component of this saga. Allyson has been through a lot. Corey is clearly damaged and throwing up all sorts of red flags, so her pursuit of him makes absolutely no sense. Fans who came to see scream queen Jaime Lee Curtis and her nemesis Michael Myers share the screen together will have to wait until the final 20 minutes of this two-hour production. It is predictably violent and ridiculously bloody, so enthusiasts who feast on gore should enjoy that segment at least.

The screenplay attempts to make a grand statement about “the inevitability of evil that exists in the world.” Michael Myers is more than a character here. He’s a symbol. The ongoing weight of Laurie’s guilt and despair is poured into writing a memoir. “Evil doesn’t die. It only changes shape,” she opines. Her introspective voiceover narration is like Chicken Soup for the Soul. These wispy ruminations inject unwarranted and misplaced importance into a slasher flick. The plot of Halloween (1978) could be summed up in three words: “Man kills teens.” It was that simple. It’s not hard, people. I just want to be frightened, and I wasn’t. My pulse didn’t even quicken.

This “final” installment is a sorry excuse to revive a tired franchise that did not merit twelve additions to the original (so far). It may be called Halloween Ends, but I have no doubt some screenwriter will creatively resurrect Michael Myers in another sequel using his DNA or invoking his supernatural spirit. I don’t look forward to that. However, I will end on a positive. Halloween Ends is an honest title because it does indeed genuinely and truly have a definitive end.


Werewolf by Night

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy with tags on October 12, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

An eclectic group of monster hunters converges on the estate of dearly departed Ulysses Bloodstone. They are there to compete for a powerful relic — also called the Bloodstone. The gem affords protection, strength, and longevity to the possessor. One caveat, they’ll have to fight a dangerous beast to get it. Among the seven attendees are the enigmatic Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal). He may not be a Terrier, but he does have a hairy problem. Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly) is the daughter of the recently deceased, a fellow monster slayer who is both Jack’s rival and teammate — but conspicuously not a love interest. Harriet Sansom Harris portrays Verussa, Ulysses’ eccentric widow.

Werewolf by Night is a unique offering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness dipped its toe in the horror waters. Composer Michael Giacchino (Ratatouille, Up) — making his directorial debut — completely dives in. That singularity is part of this picture’s charm. The narrative spotlights a decent protagonist (Jack Russell) that doesn’t want to cause harm. Everyone else is on a different page. Also enticing is the use of practical effects and black-and-white cinematography. This allows that jewel to shine even brighter as it glows ruby red.

Just in time for Halloween, this creature feature provides a seasonal but forgettable experience for MCU completists. This adaptation is based on a Marvel comic book character first introduced in 1972 and then updated in 2020. Giacchino evokes the classic Universal monster movies of the 1930s and ’40s. Taking you out of that milieu is bloodshed that is significantly more graphic than the films of that era. That’s fine. Perhaps this is meant to be a marriage of the present and the past, but only in a very superficial sense. In comparison, The Wolf Man (1941) with Lon Chaney, Jr. had real emotional stakes.

So why does this exist? I suspect this production will ultimately serve to introduce elements we will see later in the MCU. Jack Russell and Elsa Bloodstone are a given, but I hope to see another appearance of Man-Thing. The plot is inconsequential piffle. Oh, sure, necks will be ripped, and people will burst into flames. With all apologies to writers Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron, that is not the foundation for a screenplay you can sink your teeth into. (If this were a vampire flick, that would’ve been the perfect pun.) Falling somewhere between a feature-length movie and a half-hour TV show, I admire that this delivers a simple, self-contained story. Kudos that the saga wasn’t unnecessarily stretched to 2 hours. Yet even at 53 minutes, this “special presentation” on Disney+ is such a simplistic tale that it still manages to drag.



Posted in Comedy, Drama, History with tags on October 11, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Sometimes distilling a perplexing film down to its bare essence can seem daunting. Director David O. Russell has made a slew of great films, Three Kings, The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle. Amsterdam is significantly harder to enjoy. This is a case where my “powers” of reviewing a movie are put to the test. It isn’t easy to even know where to begin with his latest picture.

Let’s start with the plot. To put it succinctly, Amsterdam is a mystery set in the 1930s starring Christian Bale and John David Washington as longtime best friends. They are framed for a murder they didn’t commit and must get to the bottom of the motives behind the killing to absolve themselves. Margot Robbie rounds out their trio. They developed a close bond during their halcyon days in the Netherlands capital. The circle of friends made a pact to protect each other no matter what years ago.

Considering our core triad, Christian Bale is giving the best/most performance as nutty doctor Burt Berendsen. He’s doing a riff on Peter Falk as Columbo. He’s even got a glass eye that keeps falling out. Maybe there’s a dash of Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman in the character too. John David Washington portrays lawyer Harold Woodman. The actor — so riveting in BlacKkKlansman — has been seemingly replaced by a subdued, somber imposter I hardly recognize. Margot Robbie is a wealthy but eccentric artist named Valerie Voze. She met the duo while working as a nurse in France during World War I. She becomes romantically involved with Harold, although their interactions fail to generate any sparks.

Amsterdam is blessed (maybe cursed?) with a cast over-stuffed with stars. It would be tedious to list them all. Nevertheless, a surprising number of actors with speaking parts bear mention: Zoe Saldaña, Chris Rock, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rami Malek, Mike Myers, Michael Shannon, Taylor Swift, and Robert De Niro comprise a distended roster of celebrities. Most inhabit parts that coast on their fame. When De Niro recounts his political ideology as retired general Gil Dillenbeck, I saw an actor playing himself. Every time another well-known actor popped up, I chuckled at their conspicuous presence. There are many, and they keep coming. These appearances do contribute to the kooky nature of the narrative. However, they constantly remind the viewer that this is first and foremost a farce — not a period piece.

Amsterdam is plagued by a convoluted screenplay written by its director David O. Russell: simple at heart but tortuous in execution. A collection of capricious subplots meanders without a sense of direction or focus. The screenplay is merely a series of offbeat conversations in various locations. If there’s a bright spot to any of these deviations, it is the introduction of Anya Taylor-Joy and Rami Malek as an affluent married couple who sympathize with Hitler and Mussolini. Their mugging faces and campy line readings belong in a completely different movie — the one I wanted to see.

I looked at my watch one hour into the narrative, hoping it would be over soon. There had to be some grand design served by these random developments. Still another 75 minutes to go. Keep the faith, I told myself. The positive is that all becomes clear in the end. There is an ultimate purpose. The story is partly inspired by a 1933 U.S. political conspiracy called the Business Plot. In addition, the 2021 events at the nation’s Capitol on January 6th are an obvious inspiration too. My overall reaction to the way it was presented was ho-hum. None of it captivated me.

It’s obvious a lot of care and effort went into making this picture. I admit the production looks spectacular. I’m talking costumes and production design. Also, the cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki is outstanding. He uses many close-ups to lovingly frame these actors’ faces, and they do indeed hold our attention, even if only visually. Amsterdam is largely a disappointment where whimsy and quirkiness are celebrated as the ultimate goal. On occasion, that works. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Posted in Comedy, Drama with tags on October 6, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The adventures of an optimistic London charwoman (that’s a “cleaning lady” for U.S. speakers) circa 1957 is the basis for this quaint drama starring Lesley Manville. She works for the to well to do. One day Ada Harris comes across a beautiful Dior gown in the closet of her employer (Anna Chancellor). She immediately longs to travel to France and buy one of her own.

The picture is called Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, so it’s not a spoiler that she ultimately manages to acquire enough money to make the trip. Ah, but that’s just a formality. Buying an haute couture gown from the exclusive boutique at 30 Avenue Montaigne is a struggle too. She is a humble woman, but she speaks her mind. She’ll go toe to toe with the manager of Dior. Claudine Colbert (Isabelle Huppert) has appointed herself as the gatekeeper of taste. Claudine doesn’t appreciate someone of Mrs. Harris’ modest demeanor. However, Ada will charm everyone else. This includes the Marquis de Chassagne (Lambert Wilson), an attendee at the fashion show, Natasha (Alba Baptista), one of the models, and accountant André Fauvel (Lucas Bravo), who understands the value of a sale.

Charming British comedies comprise a whole genre. The preciousness can seem a bit manufactured. A mood of whimsicality and happenstance wildly swinging between two extremes: from trite and affected to fizzy and delightful. Furthermore, this production was made with the full cooperation of Dior. The importance placed on material possessions is a motif. The way it promotes a dress from the fashion house as the ultimate goal in a woman’s life is a dubious concept.

Fortunately, the overall feeling is enchanting. Mrs. Harris’ aspiration is not really focused on the dress per se but about following your dreams and standing up for yourself. Actress Lesley Manville imbues her character with the requisite warmth and dignity to carry this notion. Anthony Fabian’s sprightly direction and a scintillating screenplay he co-wrote with Carroll Cartwright, Keith Thompson, and Olivia Hetreed further this idea.

A gentle 1950s-period piece about a middle-aged woman doesn’t seem like something made in 2022. This is an adaptation of Paul Gallico’s 1958 novel Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris. It was previously adapted as a TV movie with Angela Lansbury in 1992 when productions like this were more common. Its mere existence in today’s cinematic landscape incurs my respect. The fact that it’s so beautifully mounted elevates the story into something rather special.

Currently available to rent on streaming (Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu, Redbox., Apple TV, etc.) in the U.S.


Hocus Pocus 2

Posted in Comedy, Family, Fantasy with tags on October 3, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hocus Pocus was underappreciated in its time. Released in 1993, the picture was a commercial failure at the box office and got terrible reviews. However, something interesting happened over the years. Repeat showings on the Disney Channel and ABC Family (now Freeform) ultimately refashioned the flop into a beloved classic with a dedicated audience.

I don’t hold the original dear. Why? Well, so full disclosure. I had never seen it until just last week. However, I was preparing to review Hocus Pocus 2. I figured I should be acquainted with the first film. Considering them both, they are equally lightweight and silly. Yet I’d give the sequel a slight edge.

The youthful supporting cast here surpasses that of its predecessor. In this story, a teen girl named Becca (Whitney Peak) inadvertently lights the Black Flame candle and brings the Sanderson sisters back, who are out for revenge. These are the witches played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. Their vicious personalities have mellowed with age. The opening intro shows that the sisters were misunderstood as children. Incidentally, Taylor Henderson is a standout as a younger version of Winifred, Bette Midler’s character. The witchy trio of Winnie, Sarah, and Mary are the only characters that return. Oops! Save for the notable exception of zombie Billy Butcherson. His storied history with the sisters comprises a minor plot point. Billy is delightfully portrayed by actor Doug Jones (Hellboy, The Shape of Water), who frequently appears in Guillermo del Toro’s movies.

Girl power reigns supreme in the follow-up. Becca has a quirky best friend named Izzy (Belissa Escobedo). The two have a tenuous relationship with former bestie Cassie (Lilia Buckingham). She has become a popular girl, much to their dismay. Cassie has a dim-witted boyfriend (Froy Gutierrez), but her loyalties still reside with her girls. The teens ultimately band together to stop the evil sisters. Lessons taught are that sisterhood is a powerful thing and that making fun of others for being different is not cool.

Despite sweeping cultural changes over the past 29 years, Hocus Pocus 2 is still a retread. There are some new jokes. Instead of a broom, Mary flies around on two Roombas under each foot. Those robotic vacuum cleaners will assist them later. The utter confusion the witches experience at Walgreens is the funniest scene. Like its forerunner, there are some musical numbers. I did appreciate a cleverly altered Elton John song, “The Witch Is Back.” This is a family film after all. Furthermore, when a group of children is told that a virgin must light the candle to summon the witches, a little boy — who looks to be about 5 — asks, “What is a virgin?” Fitting because none of the kids asked this question in the first installment.

This comedy is a pleasant diversion and manages to offer some improvements. For most people who watch this on Disney+, nostalgia will be a significant factor in their enjoyment. If you treasure the 90s flick, feel free to conjure up an extra star for my review.