|Rated: TV-PG (US) / PG (Canada)|
Starring: Kimberly J. Brown, Judith Hoag, and Debbie Reynolds
Released: October 17, 1998 (Disney Channel premiere)
It's Halloween night, and thirteen-year-old Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) couldn't be more frustrated with her mother (Judith Hoag). Instead of getting to trick-or-treat or go to a costume party, Marnie and her siblings are stuck at home, because their mother refuses to let them do anything to celebrate the ghoulish holiday. When Marnie's maternal grandmother (Debbie Reynolds) stops by for a visit, she tells of a place called Halloweentown, where ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and monsters live. Marnie and her siblings sneak out and hitch a ride on the bus their grandmother left on...only to end up in the place she spoke of! When evil seems to be afoot, Marnie is more than willing to help her grandmother defeat it...but, will her new-found powers be enough?
As usual for Disney Channel movies, there was a complete lack of profanity, sexual content, and drug use. The costumes, sets, and animatronics were all well-done. Positive themes included looking past physical appearance, courage in the face of fear, and sticking together as a family.
There were some occult references, such as a ghoul speaking of bringing up "a demon from the underworld" and a ghost speaking of "Hades," which some viewers--that is, the kind that make an effort to avoid the Harry Potter franchise--may have a problem with, and even bothered me a bit. However, to me, what was even worse was the character of Marnie. For most of the film, she is flagrantly disrespectful to her mother; not only that, but, a teenage boy in Halloweentown wants to date her, even though he has just met her. (Can you say, "Mary Sue"?) Also, the closed captions spelled an important character's name wrong, and the video was too fuzzy for a DVD released in 2005. I realize this is a telefilm from 1998, but, really...they couldn't bother to remaster it to make it look better than an "SP" VHS tape?
I'll be honest: I'm not a fan of Halloween. Some people believe it's demonic, the devil's birthday, or whatever, but I don't agree with that; I just think it's silly to have a holiday that's all about consuming gobs of candy and being scary. If this hadn't been a Disney Channel movie, I don't even think I would have bothered. Though this telefilm came on when I was a big fan of the network thanks to Lizzie McGuire, I never considered Kimberly J. Brown as one of my favorite Disney girls. Maybe it was because she did movies instead of series; still, I know now that, by avoiding this movie, I wasn't missing much. Fans of all things ghostly and ghoulish may enjoy this, but, everyone else should just wait for this to come on the Disney Channel in October. The DVD edition I have has both the original and the 2001 sequel; I'm not even going to bother with the second movie. Sure, there were some redeeming qualities...but, overall, I couldn't help but be disappointed.