While 1998’s “Halloweentown” was a very cute and entertaining little Halloween movie, the sequel “Kalabar’s Revenge” is much darker and slightly more adult in tone and atmosphere this time around. What’s interesting is you can sense the seeds for “The Witches of Waverly Place” within this sequel, and it’s not a far off prospect that what with Kimberly J. Brown getting older with each movie, Disney wanted to pass the wand over with a new franchise about magic and wizards.
“Halloweentown II” sets down on Halloween a few years after the fight with Kalabar where things have changed but are still the same. Grandma Aggie and daughter Gwen are still at war over living life as a Witch, the daughters are struggling over their allegiances and son Dylan is still concerned with being average. During a big Halloween night party, new neighbors Kal and his dad appear looking to befriend the Cromwell family. Gwen is instantly attracted to Kal’s dad, as Kal and Marnie find a common bond. A moment of weakness allows the obviously evil Kal to steal the Cromwell spell book, and upon discovering her magic bag isn’t working anymore, Aggie heads back to Halloweentown.
Marnie and Aggie discover the town is being sapped of its creativity, individuality, and magic. Kal is Kalabar’s son and is looking to suck the magic out of the town. Much of the sequel involves the shockingly fantastic chemistry between the cute Kimberly J. Brown and the wonderful Debbie Reynolds, both of whom are two generations of Cromwell’s battling with the new villain Kal. Kimberly J. Brown had sheer potential to be a Disney regular and works wonders here as the older and wiser Marnie seeking a line between normality and embracing her destiny as the head of the Cromwells. She’s very soft spoken and a great antidote to the normal overbearing Disney characters.
Reynolds grasps the role of Aggie with as much zeal as possible providing a very whimsical attitude to an already entertaining heroine holding her own in a youth oriented fantasy flick. As well I also enjoy the emphasis on the character of Sophie who goes from a little sister to the key to saving the humans from Kal’s horrible spell providing a sense of heroism and giving a very entertaining performance not reliant on cute one-liners. There’s much more visual style this time around as we’re exposed to some interesting imagery of the town in black and white, and the two witches journeying through alleys and dark mansions looking for Aggie’s mythical spell book hoping to bring the town back to life once more.
On the mortal world, Kal has cooked up a plot where all of the party goers in the school Halloween dance are going to turn in to monsters at the stroke of midnight. So with only four hours left, Marnie and her friend Luke have only a little time to restore the magic, break the spell, and save grandma Aggie who is also being sapped of her magic as time goes on. The ultimate carnage inflicted by Kal’s master plan is rather devious and once the party goers turn in to vampires and monsters it’s pretty spooky and rather wicked, especially considering the special effects are better this time around. “Halloweentown II” is the better of the entire series, and I had just as much fun with this as I did its predecessor. One thing that really seemed just obligatory for the sense of creating tension was mother Gwen’s inability to comprehend a master plan at work.
She went face to face with an evil Warlock, has been to Halloweentown and even implements her magic during the film, but she still finds it impossible to believe her kids that Kalabar may have returned and is planning something on this holiday? It’s out of character and seems just there to create difficulty for the characters and little else. It’s pretty far-fetched for a character who seems to have seen it all in regards to magic and monsters. Where the original movie was about celebrating Halloween, “Halloweentown II” is much darker and focused on narrative with the battle of good and evil and carrying on the storyline. Kimberly J. Brown and Debbie Reynolds are about as likable as ever, and this is obviously a superior sequel and the best of the “Halloweentown” movies by far.