Phantom of the Megaplex (2000)

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I think one of the reasons why the DCOM “Phantom of the Megaplex” has now gone on to basic obscurity is that it’s one of the weirder movies the Disney Channel ever produced. It’s not just an ode to the love of movies, but it’s a call back to “The Phantom of the Opera.” Not only does the film draw heavily from the original story, sans the violence and murder, but it actually influences its audience to check out the Lon Chaney masterpiece. “Phantom of the Megaplex” is a busy and often messy horror fantasy, but one that works, mainly because the writers of the film clearly love movies as much as we do.

It’s a nice touch they included Mickey Rooney as one of the cast members of the film, since Rooney was not only around during the golden age of cinema, but was at one time one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. “Phantom of the Megaplex” is set on a giant movie theater that’s the centerpiece of a small town. Built after the old theater that sat on its foundation mysteriously burned down, the megaplex now runs all the major events in the town, including premiering major cinematic events. Pete Riley is the up and coming assistant manager of the huge movie theater, and there are a load of red herrings introduced in the form of eccentric supporting characters. Everyone in the movie are either very passionate about movies, or passionate about their jobs, and will do whatever it takes to express it.

Pete is concerned with keeping his job while also following through to an important film premiere about to occur in the theater. Suddenly mysterious occurrences begin to plague the planning of the newest horror movie premiere, and Pete’s little brother and sister suspect it might be a phantom. The film is loud and erratic, but is more than made up for the fact that it’s a generally fun and spooky mystery. We’re never sure if the theater is just malfunctioning for being this bloated megaplex, or if there really is someone trying to sabotage the upcoming movie premiere.

Meanwhile, many of the performances are charming, including Mickey Rooney, who has an undying passion for the movies. To the point where he hangs around the theater despite having no job there, and discusses the golden age of movies with people. I really hope Rooney doesn’t actually do that when he’s not working. “Phantom of the Megaplex” is an unusual but entertaining DCOM that really does have its heart in the right place, paying tribute to the love of movies and movie making, while also paying homage to the “Phantom of the Opera” tale that really warrants a new audience every generation.