Halloweentown: It’s Cute, It’s Fun, and It’s Great for Families – Disney + Review / 13 Reviews of Halloween

This movie is the ultimate tribute to Halloween and a fun family story combined into one.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Marnie Piper (Kimberly J. Brown) is a 13-year-old who is obsessed with the occult despite the fact that her mother, Gwen (Judith Hoag), has banned Halloween in their house. Marnie’s younger brother, Dylan (Joey Zimmerman), tends to side with their mother, while her younger sister, Sophie (Emily Roeske), tends to side with Marnie. On Halloween, Marnie’s grandmother, Agatha Cromwell (Debbie “Singing in the Rain” Reynolds), visits. Marnie spies on her mother and grandmother talking and finds out that her grandmother is actually a witch from another world called “Halloweentown” which is populated by all of the monsters we associate with the holiday. Something evil is attacking the town and Agatha needs another witch to help her. Gwen refuses, so Marnie and her siblings follow their grandmother to Halloweentown. They quickly meet some of the residents, including warlock Mayor Kalabar (Robin Thomas), skeleton cabbie Benny (Rino Romano), and local bad boy Luke (Phillip Van Dyke). Together, the Cromwell/Pipers have to figure out who is trying to take over Halloweentown and stop them. 

This was before Pumpkin Spice Lattes threatened the holiday pumpkin surplus.


If you’re in my age range, you probably remember this movie from when it first came out. It was one of the better Disney Channel original movies from the window in the mid-90s to mid-00s when those were a big deal. It’s just the right level of campy-scary for a Disney film. It’s never going to have anyone crying or shaking, particularly since there aren’t any jump scares and the soundtrack is consistently playful and upbeat, but it does have some dark moments involving the villain when they finally reveal themselves. Despite the fact that the world of Halloweentown is filled with monsters, they all intentionally look like cheap holiday masks, so they’re never much more than colorful characters. It helps that a running gag in the film is that the monsters act almost exactly like normal people, doing things like yoga or bowling or running an ice cream shop, only doing so while having extra eyes or horns. 

Plus they have pumpkin bowling balls.

The performances in the movie are pretty solid for a Disney made-for-TV film. Debbie Reynolds has been charming and funny since the 1950s and having her play a slightly kookie but loving grandmother works out perfectly. It helps that they actually give her some fun stuff to do and say, including things like having a microwave which can duplicate the effects of the Weird Sisters from Macbeth, spitefully putting chicken wings back on the chicken, or having a Mary Poppins-esque a bag of holding. She always comes off as sincere and it helps sell the goofy premise. Both Reynolds and the kids consistently seem to be having fun, which adds to the effect. Also, the kids are a step above the usual level of bad acting that you’d find in a television film, particularly Kimberly J. Brown as Marnie and Joey Zimmerman as Dylan. I think that’s probably why they brought her back for two sequels and him for all three. 

It gets a little weird.

Mostly, though, the movie is just fun. It captures the spirit of Halloween that we all love when we’re younger. It’s not about scares as much as it’s just about enjoying the unusual and the unique. It isn’t super complicated or deep, although there is a nice message about not trying to make major decisions for your teenage children without their knowledge or consent. 

And it’ll make you invested in a $50 light prop.

Overall, it’s just a great film to put on during the holiday. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – Delirium: Old Dog, not Enough New Tricks (Spoiler-Free)

UPDATE: Forgot to hit “Update” after adding the pictures and I’m currently working, so I’ll redo this later.

It’s a pretty old concept that someone experiencing madness might be indistinguishable from someone who is dealing with the supernatural. The Tell-Tale Heart, The Turn of the Screw, Young Goodman Brown, these are just the ones I can name off of the top of my head that are more than 100 years old. So, naturally, writers, and later filmmakers, have had a long time to play around with it. Some of them have been great horror films, like the original The Haunting, and some have been not-so-great, like Hellraiser: Inferno. This one is kind of in the middle.

Delirium - 1AmericanPsycho
Sometimes the crazy person IS the monster.


Tom Walker (Topher Grace) is a recently released mental patient. Upon his release, he’s informed that his father (Robin Thomas) has recently committed suicide and given him everything in the will, including his family’s mansion. Tom has to live there for 30 days on house-arrest as one of the conditions of his release. His parole officer, Brody (Patricia Clarkson), is rooting for him to fail, based upon the horrible nature of the crime that got him committed in the first place.

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They’re an odd couple… just not the funny kind.

Shortly after moving in, Tom begins to have minor hallucinations and starts to discover secrets within his father’s house. He tries to seek help from local delivery girl Lynn (Genesis Rodriguez), but fantasy and reality continue to blend. This is only amplified when Brody takes his medication away, leading Tom to be uncertain what aspects of what he sees are real or just in his head, including images of his dead father and his abusive brother (Callan Mulvey).

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Also, he fights Captain America at one point. And Spider-Man.


Like I said, there are a lot of movies and stories that involve an unreliable narrator whose mental state may be changing reality. In this film, the first thing we know about Tom is that he has hallucinations, so, naturally, we assume that what he’s seeing is a hallucination. In fact, one of the first times we see a ghostly image in the movie, we are told that what we are seeing is just a hallucination. The problem is, that makes it seem much more likely throughout the movie that we’re just seeing hallucinations when it comes to the supernatural elements. In fact, the only things that really evoked the question of “is this real” are his interactions with characters that were previously established as being alive and potentially there. It kind of robbed a lot of the film of the tension.

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I mean, this scene is good, but much of the pressure is removed. 

The parts where he appears to be discovering the house’s hidden passages and rooms, while they do contain elements that appear to be in his head, are pretty much portrayed as unambiguously real, meaning all of the secrets he finds are genuine. It also doesn’t help that our main character constantly believes that nothing happening to him is real, which means that we are less likely to believe it could be real. Again, it kind of robs the tension.

The big upside of the film is that Topher Grace’s performance is pretty solid. His character’s connection to the pool, which later has even more significance, is actually a good use of “show, don’t tell,” something of which I am a major proponent. The backstory to his imprisonment is pretty grim and the sequence expanding on it is done well. The connection between violence, madness, and each of the family members is a good theme that deserved exploration, even if it wasn’t explored enough. Patricia Clarkson is wasted within most of the film, with my response to her character ranging from “what” to “huh.” 

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However, ultimately, the movie can’t exactly decide what parts it wants us to think are real and what parts it doesn’t. It then starts to shove a bunch of resolutions in the audiences’ collective face which feel somewhat random and unearned. It’s not a bad film, but don’t put it at the top of your list.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.