Return to Halloweentown

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Return to Halloweentown
Return to Halloweentown.jpg
Promotional Poster
Based on Characters 
by Paul Bernbaum and Jon Cooksey & Ali Matheson
Written by Max Enscoe
Annie DeYoung
Paul Bernbaum
Directed by David S. Jackson
Starring Sara Paxton
Joey Zimmerman
Judith Hoag
Lucas Grabeel
Keone Young
Summer Bishil
Debbie Reynolds
Kristy Wu
Leslie Wing
Theme music composer Kenneth Burgomaster
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Don Schain
Sheri Singer
Running time 88 min.
Distributor Disney-ABC Domestic Television
Original channel Disney Channel
Original release October 20, 2006

Return to Halloweentown (also known as Halloweentown IV: Witch U.) is a Disney Channel Original Movie that premiered on October 20, 2006. It is the fourth and final installment in the Halloweentown series. In this sequel, Marnie Piper (Sara Paxton) and her brother, Dylan Piper (Joey Zimmerman), go to Witch University to attend college in Halloweentown. While at college, dark forces try to control her magic. This is the only Halloweentown movie to not feature Kimberly J. Brown as Marnie Piper. The premiere scored 7.8 million viewers. The DVD was released on August 28, 2007.


Marnie (Sara Paxton, replacing Kimberly J. Brown) and Dylan (Joey Zimmerman) are going to follow their dreams to go to college, at Halloweentown University, which is also known as Witch University. Marnie is offered a full scholarship for her good deeds and for her work in the previous years. Much to her mother Gwen's (Judith Hoag) dismay, Marnie goes, and her brother Dylan reluctantly forced along by Gwen to keep an eye on her. The school is not what it seems. At the school, witches and warlocks can't use magic, instead they learn about Shakespeare and old magic history. Marnie had thought she was going to learn how to use her magic and is now crestfallen. She runs into her old friend Ethan (Lucas Grabeel) and makes a new friend named Aneesa the Genie (Summer Bishil). She also makes three new enemies in the Sinister Sisters, a triad of malevolent witches with whom Dylan is immediately infatuated and are the daughters of Silas Sinister (Keone Young).

Sadly, Marnie discovers that she in fact is responsible for the restriction on the use of magic at the University. The University was originally established only for Warlocks and Witches to learn how to use magic, but when the portal was opened, most of them went to college in the mortal realm. Because of that, Witch University had to let several different creatures come to the school so that the teachers would actually have students to teach. Since then, the school has allowed mortals and other magical beings to attend. The classes are boring for Marnie until a box, with the name "S. Cromwell" inscribed on it, magically appears in front of her. Most people at the school believe that Marnie used her magic to conjure up the box, but it was brought to her by fate and was therefore out of Marnie's control. Marnie meets with one of her professors, Miss Periwinkle (Millicent Martin), and asks for an explanation. Miss Periwinkle tells Marnie that the S. stands for Splendora, but not a word more about it is mentioned. Chancellor Goodwin tells Marnie that she believes that she did not conjure up the box, and that it was indeed fate which brought it to her.

Marnie and Dylan attempt to discover the secret of the box, and he reveals that he used magical speed reading at home to skip a grade. He uses it again secretly and learns that the box contains the Gift, a magical power only a Cromwell can use, which Splendora locked in the box centuries ago. Meanwhile, the Sinister sisters use Dylan's infatuation with them to make him do their homework for them.

Later, Ethan tells Marnie about a mysterious group known only as the Dominion and realizes that the Gift is near and they will try to use Marnie to open the box. Marnie tells Ethan that they are the good guys and tells Ethan he's not a good friend. Marnie decides to go into the past to meet Splendora (also played by Sara Paxton) and learn about the true nature of the enigmatic gift. Splendora explains that the Gift is an amulet that bestows the wearer with the power to control anyone by force of will, a power that witches are forbidden to use. Marnie realizes that her principal and Dr. Grogg (Scott Stevenson) are in the Dominion and Splendora bestows upon her the key to the box containing the Gift. Also, Splendora is revealed to be Marnie's grandmother Aggie. Agatha is her middle name and she hates the Splendora part so she eventually dropped it. Marnie returns to the present to open the box, but before she does, she creates the Halloweentown giant pumpkin for Splendora, telling her she'd need it. Surprisingly, stated by Splendora, Marvin, (Merlin's cousin), is Marnie's great-grandfather. This is given as a hint when Splendora tells Marnie, "...even King Arthur said that the whole royalty thing was harder than it looked."

Chancellor Goodwin (Leslie Wing) steals the Gift for the Dominion and the Sinisters, in order to use it to take over Halloweentown. Knowing that only a Cromwell can use the Gift, the Sinister Sisters (working with the Dominion) transform Dylan into a dog to compel Marnie to comply with their demands. If the Sinisters and the Dominion don't turn him back, he will stay that way forever after Halloween passes. They agree to return him to his natural form if Marnie controls Halloweentown for them. While it seems that she has agreed to aid them in their heinous plot, she is really fooling them, and turns on them once her brother is released from the dog transformation spell. Together Marnie, Dylan and Gwen destroy the Gift with help from Aneesa, Marnie's genie friend. The Dominion, having been discovered for the evil ones that they are, attempt an escape, but are apprehended by none other than Professor Periwinkle who was revealed to be an undercover detective of the Halloweentown Anti-Dominion League. She imprisons them in a Witch's Glass where she has stripped them of their magic and arrested them for treason.

The malevolent Sinister Sisters lose their powers, but Marnie learns that Ethan willingly gave his powers up. Marnie and Ethan begin a new relationship and leave on a date. The movie ends when Dylan discovers that Marnie didn't destroy the Gift, but instead left it for him in a book. Since spells cast on the grounds of Witch University become permanent at the stroke of midnight, the Gift belongs to him, the only person Marnie trusts with its power. Saving the power of the Gift for important uses only, he puts the book back showing a glowing red S at the end of the film.



The premiere was seen by a total of over 7.8 million viewers in the United States making it the most-watched basic cable program of the day, and the 9th highest-rated Disney Channel Movie of all time.[1][2][3][4]

Unlike the first three installments, which all received positive reviews, This film received a more mixed reaction. It has no critic reviews on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, however, it has an audience score of 62%.[5] The film did receive much criticism after Disney chose to re-cast Kimberly J. Brown, the original actress of Marnie, for the fourth film, despite her being available for the shoot.[6][7] Brown has also publicly stated her disappointment with the recasting.[8] Buzzfeed stated the first three movies are the best thing about Halloween, and that the fourth film was "best left ignored".[9] While MTV said everyone should pretend Return to Halloweentown never happened, due to the recasting.[10]

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