Movie #236 2020: Halloweentown (1998)

Some movies just feel like a warm hug and a big mug of hot chocolate, don’t they? One might argue that Halloweentown is one of those movies.

Set primarily in the magical realm of Halloweentown, this is the story of Marnie; a young girl who finds out on her thirteenth birthday that she is a witch. In fact, her whole family are witches, including her Grandmother (Debbie Reynolds), and she sets on a journey to go and live with her so that she can train in her newfound craft. Her mother however is not a fan of the idea, and has spent her whole life trying to hide her witch-y abilities from her, but when Marnie takes it upon herself to visit her Grandmother in Halloweentown, she gets way more than she bargained for. Almost immediately, Marnie is tasked with fighting warlocks and taming curses, and it’s up to her to save the inhabitants of the magical world.

I have to start off this review with one utterly inarguable fact: Debbie Reynolds is such a majestical diamond. This is so apparent that it doesn’t really matter that the kids in this movie are irritating as hell. There, I said it. I’ll give a pass to the youngest daughter, who ends up being the MVP of this entire debacle, but Reynolds ties this whole thing together with that famous twinkle that she always had in her eye. A Hollywood legend forever.

Not exactly the most outstanding movie in the world, but Halloweentown‘s plot is original and imaginative, and it’s so easy to see why kids in the nineties were so enamoured with it (and still are to this day apparently!) I’ve truly heard so much praise for the nineties kid who grew up watching this film and its sequels, and I get it. Disney’s live action movies these days quite frustratingly consist of remakes and adaptations of their previous films (Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, The Lion King, etc), and Halloweentown is the type of refreshing new story that our current movie scene really should be looking towards in the future.

There’s such a gap in the market in that regard that the studio should be looking to this for inspiration. Since High School Musical and Camp Rock, have there even been any others that aren’t remakes?! Let me know if I’m wrong, but there’s a reason such films are popular with kids, and that’s that they haven’t heard those stories before! Give. Us. More. Original. Stories… Please.

Thankfully, Halloweentown is original enough that I had no idea where the movie was going now and then. Though the whole thing is painfully dated in terms of special effects and cinematography, the FX make up is weirdly good. Well, especially good for it’s time. Someone clearly took lessons from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I’m extremely thankful for it. Yeah, this movie wreaks of low budget realness, but you know what? They did a pretty stand up job by way of their make up department.

There’s nothing surprising or out of the ordinary here, but that’s to be expected when you’re watching for the first time as an adult. Plot-wise, it is original and magical, but it’s not exactly a modern classic, especially in the UK. I for one had never even heard of this before Disney+ came across the pond, and I’m probably not going to devote my time to its sequels.

In short, give it a watch out of curiosity, take it for what it is and what you’ll find is a pretty cute movie!

Halloweentown is available to stream on Disney+ in the UK.

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