tek's rating: ½

Halloweentown High, on Disney Channel

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wikis: Disney; Disney Channel; Halloween Specials; Halloweentown; Made for TV Movie
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This is the third movie in the Halloweentown series, following Kalabar's Revenge. I first watched it in 2004, the year it premiered, but I didn't write a review at the time, probably because I hadn't yet written reviews of the first two movies. And by the time I watched this movie again in 2019, on DVD, I didn't even remember whether or not I had seen it before. The only reason I do know is because I had mentioned in my Halloween journal for 2004. Even re-watching it now, the plot didn't really ring any bells for me. (Well, maybe one bell, vaguely.) And I think it must be ten years since the last time I saw the second movie, so I didn't remember that very well, either. Anyway, throughout a large part of this movie, I thought I'd have to rate it lower than the first two movies (even though I didn't remember what rating I'd given either of them). But by the end of the movie, I ended up rating it higher than the first two... I mean, after I decided what rating to give this movie, I looked at my reviews of the first two, and saw that I'd rated them lower than this one. That doesn't necessarily mean I liked them less; it's entirely possible that if I watched them again now, my rating of them would be higher. But I suppose none of that is important.

So... at the start of this movie, Marnie has been summoned to appear before the Halloweentown Council. While she waits for that, she complains to her family about how she expects the council to want to punish her for having permanently opened the portal between Halloweentown and the human world, at the end of the previous movie, while she believes she should be thanked for doing so, instead. And when she makes that appearance, they do thank her. However, they're concerned about Marnie's plan to have teenagers from Halloweentown attend Marnie and Dylan's high school in the human world, as "foreign exchange students from Canada." (Most of them are obviously not human, so they have to wear human disguises.) The council is concerned about an ancient order called the Knights of the Iron Dagger, that had fought against all magical beings, but Marnie wants to prove to the council that humans have changed, that they're more accepting of differences than they used to be. Besides, she doesn't believe those knights exist anymore. In her eagerness to convince the council to allow her plan, she inadvertently bets all the Cromwell witches' magic that humans will accept the new students. (I'm not sure how this plan was supposed to work, if no one was even supposed to know any of them weren't human, but whatever.) Anyway, Marnie has by midnight on Halloween to prove she's right, otherwise she and her family will lose their magic.

Well... we don't really get to know all of the exchange students very well. There's a warlock named Ethan, who is the son of Edgar Dalloway, the head of the Halloweentown Council. And a witch named Cassie, who's eager to learn all about human culture. And a pink troll named Natalie, who becomes friends with Dylan. (They appeared to be potential love interests for each other, but Dylan was only attracted to her in her human disguise, and she found all humans ugly.) There's a blue ogre named Chester, and a werewolf named Pete, and a werecat named Jessica, a wood nymph named Nancy (who looks like a tiny golden fairy, when not in her human disguise), and a zombie named Zachary, and a gremlin named Bobby; but none of them are of any particular importance to the story. Aside from the exchange students, there's also a new (human) student at Marnie's school, named Cody, who becomes Marnie's love interest in the movie. And Aggie gets a job at the school, though she's really not well suited for teaching any normal, non-magical classes, so she keeps getting reassigned to different subjects. But she carries on a flirtatious relationship with the school's principal, Phil Flannigan.

Of course, we the viewers soon learn that there is at least one knight spying on all the magical creatures, and presumably planning something villainous, though it takes a little longer for the characters to figure this out. And it takes until near the end of the movie before they learn who's actually behind various problems that begin to occur. Meanwhile, Marnie, Dylan, and the exchange students plan to make a haunted house for the school's upcoming Halloween carnival. However, the students become somewhat disenchanted with the idea when they come to realize that humans' idea of Halloween and anything associated with it is something either to be feared or laughed at, which threatens the chances that Marnie will win her wager with the council.

And I don't want to spoil any more details, but of course the good guys beat the bad guy in the end, and Marnie wins the bet, after all. I mean, that's totally predictable... because this is a Disney movie, and not real life, where it's hard enough to convince some people not to be bigoted against their fellow humans, let alone people as different as witches and trolls and ogres and werewolves and such. But anyway, aside from a laudable if overly simplified message about embracing diversity, this movie felt like it had lower stakes than the first two, while mostly being just as silly as they were. So I really am not sure that my rating it higher than them is right at all. But whatever, my silly ratings aren't important. I still found it worth watching.

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