A teenage witch named Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) convinces the Halloweentown council that no harm will come to their children but it comes to them in the form of the evil Iron Dagger. Now, it is up to her to save them.
Watching the Halloweentown series of films for the first time ever this past week has been a blast. I still have one more film after this one to go, which I’ll check out sometime this week, but the first two entries made me feel warm and fuzzy inside and reminded me of how amazing Halloween is, especially when you’re a kid. Halloween is still a holiday that I greatly enjoy today. I love dressing up and partaking in fun activities, but it was even better as a kid, namely because of trick-or-treating.
The first two movies in this series really brought me back to my childhood and are incredibly rewatchable. I was holding hope that the third installment in the franchise, Halloweentown High, would be yet another heartwarming story, but instead, it falls flat on a disappointing number of levels.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s still an absolute blast to watch the actors from the past two films return as their beloved characters. In particular, Kimberly J. Brown does an excellent job yet again as the lead character Marnie. She radiates heartwarming and likable energy, and it’s hard not to root for her. Debbie Reynolds is just as cheerful as ever, and Judith Hoag does a great job at portraying the strict mother of Marnie, Gwen.
All of the actors return to deliver the best performances of the series so far, but the problem is that these performances are straddled in an extremely boring and clunky movie that seems completely directionless for nearly the entire running time. The first two movies had a clear focus. It was easy to follow, but it wasn’t so dull that it became boring. Halloweentown High feels like it has one too many plotlines going on. For one, there is yet another evildoer out there that wants to wreak havoc to Halloweentown. For another, a boy named Cody (Finn Wittrock), a fellow class-mate of Marnie’s, has a humongous crush on her, and their relationship, while fun to watch, seemed a little bit pointless in the grand scheme of things.
There are definitely some fun moments sprinkled throughout, but it mostly feels incredibly directionless. Not only that, but the film feels almost a bit too campy at times. Yes, I understand that the Halloweentown franchise isn’t meant to be serious, but some of the things that happen in this third installment are a bit too ridiculous to even enjoy.
If there is something that this movie did better than its predecessors, it would have to be the visual effects. The vast majority of the visuals here look genuinely convincing, and it’s all the more impressive when you realize that it was released in 2004. Back then, technology wasn’t nearly as advanced as it is now, and it was a lot harder to make convincing visuals, but they managed to pull it off mostly.
It’s just a shame that Halloweentown High was so immensely disappointing in the long run, though. All of the series staple actors deliver fun and energetic performances and show no signs of slowing down, but they were unfortunately straddled with a tired and unmotivated script this time around.
Although the performances in Halloweentown High are fun and charming, the film suffers greatly from a tired and uninspired script that runs out of ideas quickly.
Overall Grade: C-
MPAA Rating: TV-PG
Directed by: Mark A.Z. Dippé
Distributed by: Disney Channel
Release Date: October 8, 2004
Running Time: 82 minutes