Marnie’s mom is so mean! Marnie loves ghosts and goblins and all she wants to do is trick-or-treat with her friends, but as usual, Mom (Judith Hoag) says no. Halloween is forbidden at their house. But this year it’s saved by a visit from Grandma (Debbie Reynolds), who has a bag full of candy and decorations; she indulges her three grandkids with treats and stories about Halloweentown, the magical place she claims to come from. Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) overhears her mother and grandmother talking not-quietly-enough in the kitchen for such a big secret: their family has the witch gene and if Marnie was growing up in Halloweentown, her magic apprenticeship would nearly be over. So of course she’s going to sneak out and catch Grandma’s flying bus back to the Halloween dimension. What she doesn’t count on is little brother Dylan (Joey Zimmerman) and little sister Sophie (Emily Roeske) following. Now they’re all in Halloweentown, only Halloweentown isn’t what it once was. There’s an evil presence lurking about, and townspeople have been disappearing.

This movie was a Disney channel offering back in 1998, and it’s available to stream on Disney+. The great thing about Disney+ is that if you like this, you don’t have to look too far for all 3 sequels of the Halloweentown quadrilogy – they’re all right here, and though the lead actress eventually gets recast, Ms. Debbie Reynolds appears in all four. And that’s why we’re watching, right? To see Debbie Reynolds strutting through town square past goblins and pumpkin-heads like a super model, her cape billowing behind her. Even a hokey Disney movie cannot diminish her presence.

If you have kids I’d love to know how a 2020 audience feels about the “practical effects” in this film (that’s the nice way of saying it was super low budget, and the makeup/prosthetics/wardrobe they used weren’t even as good as the standard Halloween costumes you’d buy off the rack for a kid today. We’re used to fully CGI characters being superimposed over actors in green suits, so I wonder if bulbous noses still seal the deal.

Halloweentown is a harmless movie, it has witches and warlocks but mostly the good kind. It involves tween girls getting their broom licenses and grandma using instant witches’ brew instead of making it from scratch. It’s a non-scary Halloween offering, and those are relatively scarce these days. But thanks to various streaming devices, we don’t have to board a magic school bus to take us back in time, we can simply click from the comfort of our own homes.

magic is simple: you want something and then you let yourself have it

marnie’s little attitude, dylan’s an asskisser

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