Written by: Jon Cooksey & Ali Matheson
Starring: Debbie Reynolds, Kimberly J. Brown, Judith Hoag, Daniel Kountz, Joey Zimmerman
The act of othering groups of people runs naturally throughout all of history based on various reasons we can get into another time. It’s almost become a natural part of human existence and as much as this in-fighting causes damage, nothing can bring opposing sides together than a common enemy. Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge takes aim at the perceptions and biases held between humans and the monsters inhabiting the magical world.
Both in training to be a witch and living her teenage life, Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) meets who she thinks is a cute boy and when giving a tour of her house, she realizes has nefarious conditions. With her grandmother’s spellbook taken, a large spell is placed on the citizens of Halloweentown with a similar fate coming to the human race as well.
With some solid success in the first film of this series, it came to no surprise the sequels would bring some diminishing results. Sure, we could have hoped for further exploration of the Halloweentown world, but instead, we get a basic revenge plot, which does not make sense in the grand scheme of things. With all that under consideration, it must be said, this film makes some funny points about the way the inhabitants of Halloweentown and humans perceive each other.
With these monsters representing everything we see as scary in our world, the perception typically hovers around frightening to laughable in the way we dress up as them. The same thing seeing cultural appropriation of people dressing as a Mexican by wearing a poncho and sombrero, a parallel is drawn with the monsters and how people try to scare others with their looks. Simplistic, sure, but more insightful than I would ever expect from a Disney Channel Original Movie.
Now, the antagonist of this feature becomes pretty obvious when he acts, but given his name, it should have been much more apparent. I mean the guy’s name is Kal for goodness sake. Knowing the villain of the previous film, you would think the Cromwell women would stay away from anyone with that name. It also does not help that he’s such a bland villain with no discernible or interesting features other than being related to a previous antagonist. Let’s move past that because what spell he puts on both humans and the citizens of Halloweentown is fairly funny.
The spell put on the folks from the mystical world turns them into humans, which visually gets represented with them going grey all over and eventually being so boring they find pleasure in organizing their rooms and then matching socks. Boy, if that is not accurate compared to the whimsical nature of the monsters. For the humans, it plays as a clever reversal on the negative perception they have of the monsters. In this instance, anyone wearing a mask at midnight of Halloween would then turn into the very monsters they dress up as. The switcheroo is plenty of fun and undoubtedly becomes the best aspect of this entire film.
Now a few years following the first feature, the growth of these actors physically becomes incredibly apparent and their acting gets slightly better. Debbie Reynolds still remains the class of the cast, unsurprisingly. Similarly, the characters have their moments of growth with Marnie receiving more training in magic since then and her younger brother continuing his journey in being the most unlikeable protagonist in a Disney Channel Original Movie. But if anything, these characters get more time together in order to further build a rapport making them more of an endearing family. It still leaves much to be desired in terms of quality but, once again, it all comes down to expectations and what one receives.
Ultimately a downgrade from the first feature, Kalabar’s Revenge takes on a genuinely intriguing look at the way these two groups look at each other, but it suffers from a truly unconvincing and almost absent villain. His inclusion feels arbitrary and at the level of a soap opera. He could have been taken out of this film completely and it would have elevated the entire movie as a result. This narrative signifies another adventure of the Cromwell women as the youngest continue their training and the older ones try to balance everything going on.