A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this made-for-TV tween movie contains a few mildly scary scenes including some spooky red fog; a deep, bellowing warlock voice; and a growling creature-monster with glowing eyes. Some strange-looking characters appear throughout the movie, including a friendly skeleton taxi driver, a drooling troll, and some hooded demon-like creatures. On several occasions the main teen character breaks or bends rules, though she's generally well behaved. The primary bad characters are three young women who wear tight clothing and heavy makeup and treat others very badly, including teasing and tricking them.
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What's the story?
When a witch graduates from high school, where does she go? To Witch University, of course. That's where Marnie Piper (Sara Paxton) heads in RETURN TO HALLOWEENTOWN, the fourth made-for-TV movie in the Disney Channel's successful Halloweentown franchise. But the path to higher learning won't be smooth for the young witch. And first she must convince her over-protective mother to let her go. Once independent-minded Marnie is off on her own, she finds herself at odds with the Sinister Sisters, a trio of vain, pretentious young women bent on making Marnie's college days miserable.
Is it any good?
This being Disney, Return to Halloweentown has very little for parents to worry about. Marnie is an earnest but relatable teen with good intentions. She has some typical tensions with her mother, but in the end turns to Mom for help. Embedded in the story are lessons about the danger of too much power, the benefits of working together, the value of diversity, and the virtue in selflessness.
Parents interested in the more subtle messages being communicated should be aware that mom Gwen (Judith Hoag) is a caricature of a stay-at-home mom who lives through her children. The conflict between Marnie and the Sinister Sisters treads upon the well-worn path of teen female rivalry, especially for male attention. And the outward sign that the Sisters are evil (aside from their scowls) is their heavy makeup and sexy clothing -- equating sex with sin, perhaps?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about school integration. Do you think it's a good idea to let non-witches into Witch University? Why or why not? How does this issue translate into the real world? Families can also discuss power and politics. Why did the Dominion want to take over Halloweentown? Why didn't Splendora Cromwell want to be queen? If you could have the power to control others, would you take it? Why or why not?
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