The 1990s. Back when children’s television was at an all-time high, child actors weren’t hired for their looks, and Disney Channel Original Movies didn’t talk down to kids. In 1997, Disney rebranded their TV movies under the Disney Channel Original Movie marquee and their style of films also changed. They started featuring younger kids as main characters and had them dealing with their own issues. In 1998, Disney released their 5th DCOM, Halloweentown. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but as a kid it invoked our imagination. The script is full of wit, and the talent here is really impressive too–especially the lead actress, Kimberly J. Brown, who went on to also star in another DCOM, Quints. Debbie Reynolds is also fantastic here as the adventurous and crazy grandmother that every kid wants.
Being a really fun live-action film for kids, Halloweentown doesn’t come without its faults. The dialogue can be a bit cheesy on occasion, and the little brother’s cynicism and the mom’s stubbornness get tiresome after awhile. Also, as great of a movie this was as a child, as an adult I realize that the concept is underutilized. There’s this magical place that we still dream about as grownups, however we’re left wanting to see more of this world. Much like Back to the Future Part II when we get enveloped by futuristic Hill Valley to the point where we can fill in the gaps in our minds. With Halloweentown there are too many gaps to fill in that we don’t really feel like we’ve experienced this universe enough. Don’t get me wrong, I still can appreciate this film as an adult. The sets, the costumes, the few buildings that we do see are great. But it would be ten times more entertaining if we got a little more. In theory, Halloweentown is amazing, but we leave feeling cheated. I guess that’s why they made 3 more movies.
It’s easy to just say that the plot was stretched too thin here, but that’s saved for movies that have concepts that can’t be expanded upon. With Halloweentown it’s more of a case that the plot simply wasn’t as thick as it should have been. Because it should be able to get stretched for days and days and never even show signs of thinning. Let’s just hope that they fix this in the sequels.
Basically, as a kid, this film is exactly what you want. Watching as an adult I just yearn for it to reach its potential.