Don’t be surprised that this movie has five stars. It’s a freakin’ treasure, okay?
There are few movies from my childhood that hold such a special place in my heart as Halloweentown. Okay, that’s not entirely true (I’m hypersentimental, folks), but the first movie in the Halloweentown series, directed by Duwayne Dunham, is special because it (and, later, Twitches) encompassed all that I wanted from life: to be a secret witch. You can watch this Halloweason classic on Disney+.
What can I really say about this movie? It details the struggle of 13-year-old Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) one Halloween night when her mother (Judith Hoag) won’t let Marnie and her siblings, Dylan (Joey Zimmerman) and Sophie (Emily Roeske) go outside at all on the wonderfully creepy holiday.
Fortunately for the kids, their eccentric grandmother, Agatha (Debbie Reynolds), shows up and Marnie accidentally-on-purpose hears her say that Marnie–along with her mother and sister and grandma–is a witch.
With that in mind, Marnie, who has always been obsessed with “weird” things, takes her siblings on a trip to visit Agatha in her home of Halloweentown, where time works differently and all kinds of creeps live in harmony with one another. That harmony, though, is at risk when neighbors start acting strangely, leading Agatha and the children on an adventure to find the source of the evil and save both Halloweentown and Earth (I guess? Since Halloweentown is, like, it’s own thing?)
There are, of course, critiques that can be said of any Disney Channel original, particularly those that may have been set up with a series in mind (but I DON’T CARE because ALL OF THE MOVIES excepttheonewhereMarniewasrecast ARE GOLDEN), but any critique is meaningless under the warm, cozy blanket of innocent Halloween fun. Marnie gets to live her dream of being a witch while also reconnecting her mother and grandmother and bonding with her siblings; she teaches us to accept differences, and that goodness can triumph over evil; and she starts a story that spans almost a decade and has delighted children and used-to-be children for twice as long.
There is character development, particularly in Dylan’s snobby distaste for all things strange that later becomes a distant acceptance foreshadowing his full immersion into the life of warlockery (although, if I remember correctly, Dylan is always a party pooper.) And, Halloweentown creates a rich world that begs to be explored; viewers certainly aren’t satisfied with only the town-adventure scene when the siblings are looking for potion ingredients and popping in to different scenes and creatures. Thankfully, there was more to come (although, was it enough? Why stop at four movies? Has anyone asked Kimberly J. Brown is she would like to continue the universe? ‘Cause I will ask her. I will.)
Halloweentown is totally kid friendly, with minimal scares that are quickly swept away as the characters progress against the villain. Any threats are shortlasted, which can seem a little unfulfilling to adult viewers, but do I care? I don’t. I really don’t.
I really love Halloweentown, ya’ll. And remember: BEING NORMAL IS VASTLY OVERRATED!