(Footage from various Disney Channel original films is shown)
Doug (vo): Well, seeing how last year everyone seemed to enjoy seeing me get tortured with the Disney sequels, this year, I'm gonna do something kinda similar. At least, I think it's similar. In that, I haven't seen any of the subject matter I'm gonna review this month. I'm talking about the Disney Channel Original Movies. Now, seeing how these started in 1997, I'm not gonna lie, they were a little past my time, so I didn't grow up with any of these. Why are they worth talking about, then? Well, because the Disney Channel Original Movies got so popular that it almost helped define a whole generation. Okay, not define, but it was a big part of it. It was to many kids what, say, Ninja Turtles was to me. Or He-Man, or Transformers, or any of these other silly things that a lot of people my generation grew up with. Yeah, they were ridiculous, but they also left an impact for some reason. Well, all through the month of December, I'm gonna take a look at these films and try to figure out why they were so popular, if they deserve to be so popular, and if they hold up as an adult or were they only meant for kids. And, even if so, were they really any good for kids. Now, if you take a look, you'll quickly realize there are a ton of these movies that go way beyond how many days there are in December. So I'm only gonna try and do the most popular ones, and if there were ever any sequels to them. Did they deserve the attention, the popularity? Well, there's only one way to find out. I have no idea if I'm in for something great or something terrible, or both. I'm curious to see what a generation under me grew up with, and if it actually holds up at all. Some of these are even movies based on shows; I'll get an idea what kind of shows kids were watching, too. Am I in for a wild adventure, or nothing but pain? There's only one way to find out. This is Disneycember: the Disney Channel Original Movies. Let's do this.
(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Under Wraps)
Doug (vo): So the very first film to ever premiere was in 1997, called Under Wraps. I'll admit, I don't remember people really talking about this, but it is the very first one, so I think it figures to talk about it now. From the story, Under Wraps sounds like the most phoned-in Disney Channel movie you can imagine.
Doug (vo): Three quirky friends get together and break into an old creepy house. They discover a mummy's tomb and inside it, a mummy. And the mummy comes alive and starts running through suburbia, not knowing where to go or what to do. Wouldn't you know it? A little friendship starts up, but some evil mobsters want him for themselves, and, yeah. This sounds really friggin' stupid.
Doug (vo): But surprisingly, for such a lame and overdone setup, this can really be funny, creative, imaginative, and even have kind of a dark sense of humor. Yeah, no joke. Don't believe me? Just look at how it opens.
(The film's opening scene is shown as Doug describes it)
Doug (vo): A family is arguing around a dinner table, the little boy calls his sister a cow. It already starts off so delightfully mean-spirited. The father goes to do the dishes, but then, a knife falls in the garbage disposal, spinning around, when a monster breaks through the window, grabs his head, and stabs it on the spinning knife in the garbage disposal! Holy shit! I can't believe this is a Disney Channel Original Movie starting off this way! Now, of course, it goes the direction you think it's going. It's not really happening, it's a movie they're watching. But even in the movie, the whole entire theater goes red like the gore happens, they're just not showing it. And that's a really creative way to kill somebody. This film starts off with already a really original way of killing somebody off.
(Various clips focusing on the film's main characters are shown)
Doug (vo): But it doesn't just stop there. The kids in this movie are super-cynical. The lines they say to each other are almost like Simpson lines. Even though they can't swear or do anything that wrong, there is kind of this edge to them that reminds me a little bit of Monster Squad. It's hard to explain, it's kind of like this natural mean-spiritedness that most kids have at that age, but for some reason aren't really shown onscreen that much. Kids do throw insults at each other, and they try to see if they can one-up one another. They talk about sleeping in the nude, they wanna go inside this house where somebody died just because they can, they discover later that there's a key to get into the house, and when they ask why they didn't use it, they're like, "What's the fun in that? Breaking in is much more cool." It's that bizarre kind of kid logic I, strangely enough, kind of remember at that age. There's this line where this one boy asks "What does celibacy mean?", and the girl says, "It means no chicks." He says he could never do that, and she says, "Trust me, you'll get used to it." Okay, it's not shocking, but it's just that little extra that separates it from a generic Disney film.
(Several of the film's supporting characters are shown)
Doug (vo): And on top of that, all the characters are strange, like, really weird odd people. There's a guy who owns the weirdest book store that's covered in skulls and gore, and he answers the door by pretending he has a knife stabbed in his back and he falls to the ground. How would that keep any customers? That would scare everybody away! But that's more important to him than actually selling anything. Even the characters at the fast food joints are kind of weird and odd. They all have distinct characters, and a lot of them just focus on hurting this poor mummy.
(Several scenes showing Harold the mummy getting hurt are shown)
Doug (vo): Every other second, he's either being smacked or pulled or even burned. (A shot showing Harold being set on fire by defibrillators is briefly shown) Look at this! His nipples are on fire! And this is at a hospital, too! Everything is just out to hurt this poor guy.
(Other clips focusing on the mummy and another supporting character named Ted are shown)
Doug (vo): Speaking of which, this is the same guy (Bill Fagerbakke) who is from Coach and Gargoyles, and he actually has two roles in this. He plays the mummy, who sadly doesn't have much talking or expression, but he still does okay. And he also plays the guy who's dating the main kid's mom. He doesn't like him very much, despite him being very nice, and...yeah. They're kind of doing like a Captain Hook thing, aren't they, where both the father, or father-to-be, and supernatural character kind of represent that fear of what's coming forward, but then you see he gets used to the monster as he'll get used to the dad, and...yeah. You know what? This actually kind of works. It's been done, but I think a lot of this stuff in this movie's been done, but they kind of playfully acknowledge it.
(Various clips, with a majority focusing on the climax, are shown)
Doug (vo): Even when it gets really stupid at the end, where they have to fight off the phony gangsters, how do they do it? They pretend like their eyes are gushing out of their heads, and then they knock the person out and tie him up with intestines. I love this kind of stuff! You would never see this in a Disney movie. This kind of just barely G-rated humor tickles me in just the right way. It's not overly dark and aggressive to a point where it becomes awkward, but it's just enough. The downside is, the second half does slow down a little bit and some of the laughs go a little quiet.
Final thought Edit
Doug (vo): But I thought the whole thing was gonna be like that. For a good, I don't know, two thirds of the movie, I was surprisingly kind of enjoying it. Okay, not loving it, but there was some laughs here or there. I don't know. I'm not gonna act like this is anything great, but for a little Disney Channel movie, I thought it actually had more to it than it needed. If you're looking for that little kid Halloween movie that goes a little further than it needs to, with some memorable characters, weird scenes, and surprisingly funny lines, I'd say this is actually worth checking out, in the same way a kind of self-aware B-movie is worth checking out. Take a look for yourself and see if it's worth getting wrapped up in.
(A scene showing the main characters walking together in a suburban street is shown)