Most every 90s and early 2000s kid grew up watching Disney Channel. Many of the shows and “Disney Channel Original Movies” are not worth a second look as an adult. Halloweentown, however, is the rare exception — along with the likes of High School Musical, Jump In, Camp Rock and Cadet Kelly.
Since Halloween is coming up soon, this post diverges a little from the typical routine of classic/modern film to celebrate the season.
This 1998 film begins with young, 13-year-old Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) begging to experience just a little of Halloween night. Her mother quickly puts a stop to this, however, as she does every year. Marnie feels she has a special connection with Halloween — and it turns out her suspicions were right. This is because Marnie is actually a witch, and she comes from a long line of witches.
Marnie overhears her grandmother talking to her mom (Judith Hoag) about her hometown, Halloweentown and how it’s in grave danger. She, along with her younger brother Dylan (Joey Zimmerman) and little sister Sophie (Emily Roeske), follow their grandmother onto the mysterious bus that flies to the strange land of Halloweentown. Much happens in Halloweentown while the Cromwell family is there, but the best part is watching Marnie grow into a confident, independent young woman who helps her family at all costs.
Debbie Reynolds is obviously the star in the film. Watching the film now, I appreciate her acting more since I’ve since seen many of her stellar musicals, such as the classic Singin’ in the Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (from which she received an Oscar nom). She’s delightful, oh so likable and fun as Aggie, Marnie’s grandmother who hails from the mysterious Halloweentown.
Brown is also good (and a little sassier than I remembered, to be honest) in her first Disney Channel movie. Brown would go on to star in the Disney Channel movie Quints and Halloweentown‘s many sequels.
The costumes and masks for the Halloweentown characters are quite ridiculous and unbelievable, but Halloweentown isn’t out to win an Oscar. It’s simply there to provide a “howling” good time for kids.
Part of what makes Halloweentown succeed is its overall engaging nature. The “broom scene” is captivating, especially for a young child or nostalgic 90s kid.
Most importantly, it teaches viewers about the importance of family, and that’s something every kid needs to get out of a movie. No spoilers, but the final scene is extra heartwarming when each family member comes together in his or her own way, with his or her own strengths and weaknesses, to defeat “the bad thing.”
Halloweentown is unique its own right, but it also spawned three additions — rare for a TV original movie — Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, Halloweentown High and Return to Halloweentown.
Overall, Halloweentown is a needed watch for the season, particularly if you grew up watching the film. Its lighthearted nature is atypical for the normal frightening Halloween movie and is a good film for any age who can appreciate its best qualities.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures