Directed by: Mark A.Z. Dippé
Written by: Dan Berendsen
Starring: Debbie Reynolds, Kimberly J. Brown, Joey Zimmerman, Judith Hoag, Emily Roeske
Integration of different cultures on paper has the makings of wonderful diversity and understanding but typically does not occur with ease. Something seen time and time again within cities and gets attempted in Halloweentown High when the monsters try to attend human school in search of fully opening the border between the two worlds for good.
Now in high school, Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) hopes to bring some monster from Halloweentown as foreign exchange students. In order to get it approved, she essentially wagers the magical powers of her entire family should anything go wrong from humans mistreating the so-called monsters.
In an effort to have a substantial message about integration, Halloweentown High commits one of the cardinal sins of moviemaking, at least in my estimations. It has a wonderfully short runtime but feels incredibly grating to get through because of its lack of quality. This falls into the category of being a good premise but some woeful execution in putting it together. A shame, really, considering it feels like the ultimate step forward this series of films wanted to take. The first film established the town and Marnie’s attachment to it, the second features the major differences between the two worlds, and this third seeks to bring them together. A great three-film structure to put together, but the final two could not sustain the quality with this one being the lowest in the downward slope.
With bringing these two, let’s call it species, together, it begins with the monsters putting on human suits in order to hide themselves. Obviously, a point to be made here but one that could have been handled a bit better. However, the overall message still rings true with what they want to get through. The monsters then get uncomfortable with what they get asked to do in order to blend in with humans, all from the great intentions of Marnie as the liaison between the two worlds. This serves as a good parallel to how the real world works and how integration gets forced upon those from the outside group in ways that do not make those individuals comfortable. While not dove into in a deep manner, as expected, the attempt remains noble.
The antagonist of this feature comes forward as obviously as all the other films within this series as it has the subtlety of a brick in the face. Knights, who essentially represent racists serve as the main figurehead. Makes sense, considering these individuals stand against integration in the real world, it makes sense the same would occur here. However, a moment where a sword gets painted as some sort of omen towards the Cromwells. I can just imagine the villain, in retrospect, painting the sidewalk without being seen by anyone. Beyond silly but this film just comes with so much ridiculousness.
Another instance of this silliness appears in what they do with Aggie (Debbie Reynolds). With most of the story taking place in a high school, they needed to find a way to shoehorn Aggie into the story seeing as she’s the best part of the entire film series. Their approach comes in her being a teacher. Now, I know there’s magic in this world, but no level of sorcery can change one’s levels of education. She starts with teaching science, which makes sense considering she does plenty of spells, but when things go wrong for her, she gets switched to history and then physical education. I understand they want to keep her present, but the fact she continually stayed in a teaching role considering one of the instances led to a kid losing their ear just took me out of the story. Silly, yes, but to a point where it distracted from the movie with its blatant attempts to cheaply keep this character within the narrative.
Wonderfully meaningful on paper but ultimately a painful exercise, Halloweentown High fails to adequately keep an engaging story going for its incredibly short runtime. It swings with the intention of having a strong message about integration between cultures and who works against this occurring between different cultures. Even with its fumbling, it has a good message it wants to display between these two cultures and how clearly it parallels the real world. Strangely ambitious for a Disney Channel Original Movie and one that ultimately whiffs with its intentions, unfortunately.