STUDIO: Disney
MSRP: $19.99 Each
RUNNING TIME: 245 Minutes Total
• The Magic of the Halloweentown Movies and Twitches featurettes
• Halloween Party Planner Activities

The Pitch

"It’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets Ernest Scared Stupid! But, let’s get rid of the humor and creativity…that just weighs it all down."

The Humans

Judith Hoag, Joey Zimmerman, Emily Roeske, Kimberly (Rose Red) Brown and Debbie (“60 years in show-biz and I end up here!?”) Reynolds

The Nutshell

Welcome to Halloweentown. It’s pretty much the same as any All-American Small-Town, except it’s in another dimension and it’s crawling with monsters. They’re all here – Goblins, gnomes, vampires, ghosts, pumpkin heads and werewolves (but, sadly, no Jack Skellington). Now, every so often, Halloweentown comes under attack by someone (or something) who’s determined to take control of Halloweentown and lead the monsters to take over the human world. Sooo…when that happens, someone’s gotta save the day. Meet the Cromwells: Gwen (Hoag), the Mom; Marnie (Brown), the oldest and central character; Dylan (Zimmerman), the geeky little suck-up; Sophie (Roeske), the youngest and Aggie (Reynolds), the Grandma. Why are the Cromwells so special? Well they just so happen to be the most powerful bloodline of witches and warlocks Halloweentown has ever seen, thank you very much!

Publicity still from the little-known sequel: Mary Poppins and the Magical Mystery Tour

The Package

The artwork on both discs leave a lot to be desired, with some minor-league Photoshop work taking center stage. Halloweentown 1 & 2 is a little too dark (in color, not tone) and not nearly catchy enough, but it does a much better job of capturing the theme of the movie inside. Halloweentown High, on the other hand, dismisses the monster and Logo elements of the first disc and, in turn, dismisses all the familiarity and continuity of the series. If it weren’t for Debbie Reynolds’ magic wand and the little magic sparklies around the characters, you’d almost have no clue what you were picking up. Strange thing is – it’s not impressive, but almost exactly what you’d expect.

For the A/V Clubbers, there’s nothing to really get worked up about. Both discs are presented in Full Frame (as are all made-for-tv-movies) but there is the inclusion of a Dolby 5.1 track on each. All the magical sound effects come through nicely, as do all the visual effects. Colored smoke, sparkles and lighting effects are vibrant as hell and are, at times, a bit impressive. Well, no, Spider-Man 2 is impressive, so this would be…vibrant. Yeah, we’ll stay with vibrant.

For the bonus features, these are by no means stacked discs. Halloweentown 1 & 2 has 2 featurettes. One of them is a 4 or 5 minute look at some behind the scenes things, but it’s over before it really begins so it’s basically useless fluff. The second featurette is your basic EPK fare for the new Mowery Twins movie; Twitches (See, they’re twins…and they’re witches…so they’re Twitches. They actually dedicate time to explaining that).

Halloweentown High boasts a DVD-ROM Party Planning Kit complete with printable decorations and invitations. For your set-top, there’s Halloweentown High-Jinks, which are creative little games your party guests can play. Not a bad little set of features if you have smaller children. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a little more on the creation of the actual Halloweentown and the costumes and such, but as disappointed as I am with the lack of that information, I’m just as grateful for the lack of a commentary track on either disc, otherwise I would have had to sit through them each again. I consider it a fair trade.

"I swear to God I’m gonna kick the next person who asks me about my curtains or my carpet!!"

The Lowdown

The original Halloweentown opens on Halloween night. We’re introduced to 13-year old Marnie (Brown) who’s a little upset by her mother’s “We don’t celebrate Halloween” rule. By “a little upset” I mean that SHE’S A TOTAL BITCH. Seriously, if my daughter ever talked to me the way Marnie talked to her Mom there would be some very unpleasant repercussions. Viewers may remember Kimberly Brown as Annie in ABC’s Rose Red. You may also remember that she said maybe a total of 4 words in the entire movie. Watching this movie made me realize that character was perfectly suited for that actress. Brown’s Marnie was obviously supposed to be a slightly rebellious teen with a humorous teenage attitude problem, but it didn’t come across that way at all. The spite that came out of Marnie’s mouth was enough to make you dislike Mom simply because she didn’t come across as being able to discipline her kids. Speaking of Mom, you know right away that she’s got issues with Halloween, but of course, we don’t know what they are yet. Now, we can’t forget the other two kids: Dylan, the geeky little suck-up who’s quick to defend Mom’s unusual stance on the second best Holiday ever and Sophie, the only character I really liked in the whole cast. She’s quiet, polite, doesn’t say a lot and apparently has a lot more on the ball than her older sister. So, while our family argues, we’re introduced to Debbie Reynolds as Grandma. Grandma is like a mix between Marie Barone and Rose Nyland. Marie, insofar as she’s self-absorbed and over-bearing, refusing to honor Mom’s wishes, and Rose, because you can tell grandma’s from a different place and time and she has a hard time forgetting she’s not in St. Olaf anymore. Or, well, you get the idea.

Now, with the characters introduced let me give you a short history of Halloweentown. Apparently, long, long ago, humans and monsters lived peacefully among each other. That all changed when the humans started wearing costumes and mocking the creatures, which eventually led to violence, causing the monsters to defend themselves against us in not so peaceful ways (Isn’t it funny how any movie in which the central character isn’t a human, that character suffered some injustice at the hands of a human? Hmmm…). Well, in order to keep a war from starting, or something to that effect, the Monsters created a world of their own, Halloweentown, where they could live peacefully with fear of the big mean humans.

Now, back on track, with Grandma’s arrival we know she’s a witch, and we soon learn that the entire family we met earlier are witches too. But, Mom has turned her back on her roots and has decided to raise her children as normal humans (so THAT’S why she doesn’t like Halloween!). Apparently, Grandma, Mom and the entire Cromwell clan are originally from Halloweentown. But Mom grew up, married a mortal and had kids in the Human World, where she wants to stay. Grandma reveals that there’s trouble in Halloweentown as all the residents are turning up missing. Mom refuses to help (she’s a “normal human” now) so Grandma goes back to Halloweentown to fix it herself. However, Marnie heard the entire conversation! So she, Dylan and Sophie stow away on Grandma’s bus back to Halloweentown so Marnie can learn to use her powers and help Grandma save the town. Now obviously, this IS a Disney Channel movie, so I’m sure you can imagine it doesn’t end in total bloodshed. Halloweentown is saved, and in the process certain broken family bonds are mended.

Little things like budget cuts weren’t going to stop the producers of the newest Pumpkinhead sequel.

Now, this is a Double Feature disc, so when we go back to the menu to play Halloweentown 2, guess what! IT’S THE SAME MOVIE! Again, we open on Halloween night (2 years later), again Mom has reverted back to her “human” ways (she lets the kids celebrate Halloween but NO MAGIC!!), again Marnie is a super bitch (but she’s in love this time so I guess that’s supposed to make it believable), and, you guessed it, again there’s trouble in Halloweentown (IT’S THE SAME TROUBLE FROM THE FIRST MOVIE!!!). The ONLY difference in Halloweentown 2 is that the actors got older, so they don’t look the same. Seriously, if you watch Halloweentown, then you’ve seen Halloweentown 2. There are a couple of new characters and there’s more “world-jumping” from Halloweentown to Earth than in the first…AND THAT’S IT (although I will give kudos to the filmmakers for reuniting the entire original cast).

So on the second disc there’s Halloweentown High. Marnie thinks it’s a good idea to bring kids from Halloweentown over to the Human World to try and bring peace and harmony between the two races again. Her bitchiness from the first two films is replaced by this thick arrogance that makes it hard to watch. “I’m a CROMWELL so I’m automatically the best witch on the planet!” Now, she doesn’t actually SAY that, but she might as well have. Anyway, she pleads her case to the Witches’ Council, who tell her that if she can’t make the plan succeed by midnight on Halloween Night, then she, along with the rest of the Cromwells, lose their magic. Halloweentown High is definitely a different movie, as it doesn’t have the same fantasy-type feel of the first two. With all the problems I had with Halloweentown 1 & 2, I did find myself endeared to the whole Halloweentown World, with it’s characters and atmosphere. Halloweentown High, while being set in the Human World, leaves all of that behind (you never even see Halloweentown in this movie). The characters (and cast) are the same, but that’s about where the similarities end. It feels different, looks different and I would imagine the fans of the original movies were let down by this new addition. I can’t say that I enjoyed these movies, but I can see how other people would. Those people are probably 12, but hey, 12 year olds watch movies too.

Oh, and one final thought – apparently Halloweentown is different enough from Halloween Town to avoid a lawsuit. Tonight I’ll start working on my newest script – The God Father.

6.3 out of 10