|People who grew up in the 1980s tend to think Mr. Boogedy, Disney's mid-80s made-for-TV movie, was awesome, but Halloweentown, their 1998 TV offering, sucked. Judging by the comments online, "children of the 90s" think Halloweentown was awesome, but that the movies the Disney channel is making nowadays suck. See how this works? It's part of how we deal with becoming culturally irrelevant as we grow up.|
I feel like the family in this movie is a bit less realistic than the novelty-shop owning Davis family in Mr. Boogedy who seemed like they might have really been my neighbors in the 80s - but maybe it's just because the Davis kids were kids in the same era I was, and the Cromwells are just as realistic in their way. But, then again, the Cromwells are a family of witches, so realism probably wasn't a real goal for the producers; I feel like it was more of a common thing to go for realism in kid movies in the 80s - no movie ever portrayed a family quite as realisitically as E.T. (a movie that film snobs don't seem to have rediscovered), and it was fairly common for kids in movies in the 70s and 80s to swear (see The Goonies and The Bad News Bears). The Cromwells seem more like, well...the kind of family you always see in Disney Channel movies. They have problems, but no...grit.
But that's no real crime, and 13 year old Marnie Cromwell, the girl who is the hero of the story, is a cool character - she's weird (but not TOO weird), smart (but not TOO smart), and probably very relatable to regular girls everywhere. Her little sister is adorable and her brother is an annoying little git (girls who are heroes in movies and books aimed at Halloweentown's target audience almost ALWAYS have annoying little brothers, don't they? This one reminds me of Kenny, the little brother in Judy Blume's Blubber).
As the movie begins, Halloween has come and Marnie, a "weird stuff" enthusiast, is not allowed to go trick or treating for reasons her mother won't discuss. The truth is that she was born to be a witch, but her mother has given up magic and wants to raise her daughters and son to be "normal." And she would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for that meddling grandma.
Grandma arrives on Halloween and amuses the kids with tales of Halloweentown, a place where witches, monsters, and ghosts are real. After going to bed, Marnie overhears mom and grandma talking and learns the truth - she's a witch. She also hears that Halloweentown is real, and something strange is going on there. People have been disappearing. With her adorable sister and annoying brother in tow, she stows away on the bus to Halloweentown.
|Halloweentown is populated by some of the least convincing-looking monsters ever put to film; most of the monsters look for all the world like people wearing Halloween costumes from K-Mart. The special effects here are a step above the ones we got in our '80s specials, naturally, but the costumes leave a bit to be desired. It might have been less noticeable if they'd kept them all in low light, surrounded by fog, but Halloweentown is a surprisingly sunny place.|
|Halloweentown is in trouble because Kalabar, the mayor, is secretly determined to turn Halloweentown residents into some sort of unholy army to help him take over the mortal world. When he's not dressed as the mayor, he wears a hooded robe and has a face that kinda makes him look like Skeletor wearing a potato sack mask. Actually, in a way, he ALMOST looks like a sandwich. Oh, how I wanted this guy to start yelling "Boogedy boogedy boo!" But, alas, the light he shoots out of his hands is blue, not green.|
As was their habit in the early-to-mid 00s, Disney made several sequels. For a while there, Disney was a regular sequel factory, cranking out sequel after sequel to every movie they made, including whatever they could find from their back catalog.
And, partly because the sequels keep interest alive, Disney still airs this movie about 10 times a year. I would rather have them air this one 9 times some year and fill the extra couple of hours by re-airing some of the classics from their vault that they completely ignore. I mean, I'm fine with letting the generation after mine have specials of their own, but can't WE have digital quality copies our beloved old specials, instead of blurry vhs rips made from 20 year old tapes?
This movie teaches that magic is just wanting something bad enough, then letting yourself have it. If we want it bad enough, maybe Disney WILL crack open the vaults some year.
Or, we can just use youtube.