×

Halloweentown

What separates this original pic from the usual Halloween fare is that it captures the spirit of a holiday designed for kids. It's sweet and fun, but too much could definitely give you a stomach ache. Halloween, much like Christmas, has been turned into a marketing gimmick, and each year, TV execs try to cash in on the revelry. However, this story of a 13-year-old girl fascinated with all things witches is really about discovering the power of family, mortal or otherwise.

With:
Aggie Cromwell - Debbie Reynolds Gwen Piper - Judith Hoag Marnie Piper - Kimberly J. Brown Dylan Piper - Joey Zimmerman Sophie Piper - Emily Roeske Calabar - Robin Thomas Luke - Phillip Van Dyke

What separates this original pic from the usual Halloween fare is that it captures the spirit of a holiday designed for kids. It’s sweet and fun, but too much could definitely give you a stomach ache. Halloween, much like Christmas, has been turned into a marketing gimmick, and each year, TV execs try to cash in on the revelry. However, this story of a 13-year-old girl fascinated with all things witches is really about discovering the power of family, mortal or otherwise.

After a slow start, this family adventure comes to life thanks to the presence of screen legend Debbie Reynolds. Although the film doesn’t come close to capturing Reynolds’ considerable talents, the 66-year-old actress clearly relishes her role as a matriarchal witch who comes home to recruit her granddaughter into the family business.

The story begins with 13-year-old Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) pouting because she’s forbidden to join the neighborhood kids for Trick or Treat.

Her bookworm brother Dylan (Joey Zimmerman) would rather watch a nature show, but 4-year-old Sophie (Emily Roeske) also longs to join in the festivities.

Unbeknown to the kids, Mom (Judith Hoag) is a retired witch who gave up her craft to live as a mortal. Now a widow, she tries to maintain the status quo, shielding her children from her colorful past. The pic literally lights up when Reynolds, as Grandma Aggie Cromwell, makes a surprise visit, bringing costumes and candy to the Halloween-starved kids.

Grandma Aggie warns her daughter that Marnie must begin her witch training or loose all of her powers forever. She also tries to convince her daughter to return home to Halloweentown, to fight off the strange evil force that is turning the happy-go-lucky residents into hateful ghouls.

Halloweentown is no ordinary neighborhood. It’s a haven for monsters, demons, trolls and warlocks who have forsaken the real world to live peacefully and unbothered in a truly enchanted kingdom.

When Marnie discovers her birthright, she and her siblings follow Grandma home to help fight off the evil force that’s destroying the town. Marnie and Sophie embrace this odd world, while Dylan remains constantly skeptical. He writes off the strange inhabitants as animatronic. “Disney World,” he tells Marnie, “is full of that stuff.”

Sharp writing by Jon Cooksey and Ali Matheson doesn’t go unnoticed.

The movie is full of topical humor and whimsical touches, including a microwave with Bubble, Toil and Trouble settings and a demon who fails to impress today’s teenagers with his evil spells because they’ve already seen it all on Jerry Springer.

Reynolds is heavily showcased, but the key to the story is Brown who nails the part of a young girl struggling to find her identity without conjuring up images of an adolescent nightmare. Zimmerman, as Dylan, plays the straight man perfectly and gets all of the best lines, while Roeske is simply charming as young Sophie.

Hoag is the killjoy mom who inexplicably would rather clean house and cook than use her magical powers. The only personality she shows is when she runs into her old boyfriend-turned-evil-warlock, played with flair by Robin Thomas.

Although generally good-natured fun prevails, there are enough scary images in Halloweentown to frighten the wee ones, but not enough action to entice those over 15. The tech credits are adequate, but are clearly not the draw here.

Popular on Variety

Halloweentown

Disney Channel; Sat. Oct. 17, 7 P.M.

Production: Filmed in Portland, Ore., by Ventura Valley Films. Executive producers, Sheri Singer and Steve White; director, Duwayne Dunham; writers, Jon Cooksey and Ali Matheson; production designer, Alfred Sole; costume designer, Brienne Glyttov; camera, Michael Slovis; editor, Martin Nicholson; sound, Doug Tourtelot; casting, Megann Ratzow. 84 MIN.

Cast: Aggie Cromwell - Debbie Reynolds Gwen Piper - Judith Hoag Marnie Piper - Kimberly J. Brown Dylan Piper - Joey Zimmerman Sophie Piper - Emily Roeske Calabar - Robin Thomas Luke - Phillip Van Dyke

More TV

  • Judith Light'Transparent' TV show Musical Finale,

    'Transparent' Team Talks 'Transformative Energy' of Trans Community

    As Amazon Prime Video prepares to send off “Transparent” with a musical finale movie on Sept. 27, the cast and creative team behind the show are hoping the impact of a character such as Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor) will not be overshadowed by the controversy that the actor who portrayed Maura caused. “I believe that [...]

  • Cherry Jones

    Cherry Jones Wins 2019 Guest Drama Actress Emmy

    Cherry Jones won the 2019 guest drama actress Emmy for her work as the titular character’s mother, Holly Osborne, in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” This was Jones’ second consecutive nomination for the role but first win. Interestingly, both noms were for her work in the second season of the dystopian streaming series. After a few [...]

  • Jane Lynch, Cyndi Lauper Developing 'Golden

    Jane Lynch, Cyndi Lauper Developing 'Golden Girls'-Style Comedy for Netflix

    Jane Lynch and Cyndi Lauper just wanna have fun. The comedian and the 1980s music icon have joined forces to star in a new comedy project that may be heading to Netflix. Lynch let it slip backstage at the Creative Arts Emmys that she and Lauper will co-star in a comedy that she described as [...]

  • Luke Kirby71st Annual Primetime Creative Arts

    Luke Kirby Wins 2019 Guest Comedy Actor Emmy

    Luke Kirby has been crowned the winner of the 2019 guest comedy actor Emmy for his role as the real-life comic Lenny Bruce on Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” This was Kirby’s first-ever Emmy attention. He was nominated against a slew of “Saturday Night Live” players (Robert De Niro, John Mulaney and Adam [...]

  • Bradley Whitford photographed at the PMC

    Bradley Whitford Wins 2019 Guest Drama Actor Emmy

    Bradley Whitford won the 2019 guest drama actor Emmy for his role of Commander Joseph Lawrence on Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Whitford joined the cast of the streaming dystopian series at the end of its second season, in episodes that were released after the close of the 2018 Emmy eligibility window. The Television Academy agreed [...]

  • TV Review: 'Transparent' Series Finale

    TV Review: 'Transparent' Series Finale

    Amazon’s “Transparent” will have a chapter, or a section of one, in some to-be-written history of television, in part thanks to how brazen and how daring its ideas were for its moment. Some of those were ideas that came to seem simply logical in retrospect: The show was a pathbreaker for trans representation onscreen, casting [...]

  • Jane Lynch NBC Relatively Happy

    Jane Lynch Wins 2019 Guest Comedy Actress Emmy

    Jane Lynch has been crowned the winner of the 2019 guest comedy actress Emmy for her role of comic Sophie Lennon on Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” This was Lynch’s second consecutive nomination for the role but first win. However, it is her fifth Emmy overall, after winning a short form statue in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content