In some ways Kalabar’s Revenge is a better film than Halloweentown; however, I personally preferred the original far more. That being said, I can admit that the structure of the second movie was more enjoyable to watch. Like before, Debbie Reynolds gave the best performance of the film. Even in a small screen role, she gave her everything in bringing Agatha Cromwell to life and outshone the other actors including Kimberly J. Brown who played Marnie Piper.
In this film the plot, while more predictable, is far more concise and to the point. We have an established villain from the outset that the Cromwells must face and defeat to save Halloweentown, and more directly, the mortal world as well.
Halloweentown II is set two years after the first movie. We open on a Halloween party full of kids. Despite the fact that in the last film Gwen embraced the idea that Marnie wants to be a witch, going so far as to say she would complete Marnie’s training, she is suddenly very anti-magic again and seems to be reluctant for any of her children to use their powers or visit Halloweentown. I found it difficult to ignore this glaring plot hole while watching. Marnie’s brother Dylan, who clearly displayed magical powers in the last film, seems to have been living in denial over the last two years as he appears to be extremely surprised to have been able to cast a spell at the end of the movie.
While ordinarily, the long-lost family member showing up to wreak havoc is a tired and overused trope, I much preferred Kal as a villain than his father. We see from the beginning his wicked intentions, long before Marnie realizes he is up to no good, and I found his evil plan to be better thought out and interesting than Kalabar’s had been. Using the Grey Spell to curse the citizens of Halloweentown to become boring, grey humans as punishment for their complacency in Kalabar’s destruction had a genuine motive behind it and felt much more believable than when Kalabar wanted to take over the mortal world.
I especially enjoyed that Kal already had a Cromwell spellbook. Instead of stealing the other copy from the Cromwells, he chose to get close to Marnie so she would show him the book willingly. For a made for Tv Disney film, I thought this was quite devious and fitting for a villain. The fact that all Kal had to do to gain Marnie’s trust was smile at her was rather far-fetched but it speaks more to how Marnie’s character was written than it does Kal’s.
Much like the first movie, the idea of a family pulling together is still prevalent. Dylan and Sophie work together in the mortal world to protect their mother and everyone at the Highschool, while Marnie and Grandma Aggie look for a way to undo Kal’s magic in Halloweentown. But unlike the first film, Marnie finds herself, for the most part, alone and in need to solve her problems on her own. She has the help of Luke the goblin, but he has no magical ability and can do little to assist Marnie in breaking the Grey Spell. I really enjoyed seeing Marnie gain some independence as a person, and as a witch. Watching her achieve her goals using her own quick thinking and magical ability was very fun to watch and a nice change from Marnie using spells and potion recipes her grandmother had already created.
The plot takes an extremely convoluted turn when time travel is introduced. Marnie and Luke jump back and forth across time trying to escape a spell cast by Kal, opening the film up to many plot inconsistencies, like warning a Halloweentown resident, Gort, about the Grey Spell some fifty years before it happens. Logically Gort would have been in some way prepared for the Grey Spell if he had been warned in the past, but he isn’t. The film never addresses this, not even to say that magic fixes time paradoxes. It is never mentioned again and that stuck with me for the rest of the movie.
As said before, I found Kal to be the most interesting villain in the Halloweentown series. However, I was very disappointed with the big showdown at the end of the film. It amounts to nothing more than Kal offering Marnie a chance to overwhelm him with her magic and, unsurprisingly, she does with little effort. He then uses his magic to flee and that is the end of the great threat in the film. Once Kal is gone, Luke says ‘He’ll be back’, to which Marnie replies ‘And we’ll be waiting’. This implies that he will return in some way in later films, either as a primary antagonist or catalyst for dark events to transpire. However, he is never seen or mentioned again in any later installment of the Halloweentown movies, much to my disappointment.
Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge is by far my least favorite Halloweentown film and though the story has more immediacy and action than the original, I feel it lacks the same whimsical charm and wholesomeness that appealed so much to me in the first movie. While I do recommend watching this film if you want to complete the Halloweentown series, I personally find its rewatch value severely lacking and won’t be watching it again this Halloween.