I support bringing the classics to the kids, even if they come in the form of Disney Channel movies. Phantom of the Megaplex introduces the story of The Phantom of the Opera and screen legend Mickey Rooney to younger audiences. The actor, who brings a magical touch to the otherwise unspectacular film, is slightly out of time and place as an elderly cinema employee who waxes lyrical about the spellbinding power of movies. It’s an eloquent monologue, as far as TV scripts go, and makes his appearance a special one, especially when we see the way his presence entrances his young costar, Jacob Smith.
Smith, who plays movie aficionado Bryan, is not the star of Phantom, however, as much as he should be. Instead, it’s Taylor Handley as Pete, Bryan’s older brother and the teenage manager of a megaplex that is preparing to host a Hollywood premiere. Pete is all business and has no time for the wistful fantasies of young filmgoers. He chides Bryan and sister Karen (Caitlin Wachs) for indulging in silly daydreams when they should be eyeing realistic goals like working hard and making money.
On the night of the premiere, Pete finds himself pushed to the limit when he must prepare for the big opening, look after his siblings, and fend off a bully to win the affections of his crush. But just as the evening rush gets underway, things start to go awry. At first it’s a broken candy dispenser and popcorn machine. When the a giant fan turns the theater into a wind tunnel during Cyclone Summer, however, Pete knows he’s in for a long night.
He’s too level-headed to think these mishaps anything but bad luck. Bryan and Karen, on the other hand, suspect the Phantom of the Megaplex, a mysterious figure who’s haunted the grounds ever since the original cinema was destroyed to make way for a much bigger complex. The two are the real sleuths and heroes here, slipping down dark corridors and furiously researching old and new movie plots that might give them clues about the Phantom’s next move.
As much as the film tries to show its love for the art, it never really gives its young viewers a good education. It would have been nice to see references to real classics, especially with Mickey Rooney in the cast. The megaplex itself is also a pretty sterile setting. An old theater might have breathed more life into the mystery, which is never quite as mysterious as the filmmakers would have you believe. For a supernatural thriller, by kids standards, the movie has a short suspect list and lacks the spook factor of a good Halloween film. But if it inspires young’uns to love the moving pictures even a little bit more, then it’s worth it.
Dir: Blair Treu
Writer: Stu Krieger
Cast: Taylor Handley, Jacob Smith, Caitlin Wachs, Corinne Bohrer, John Novak, Mickey Rooney, Rich Hutchma
Time: 88 min
Country: United States
Network: The Disney Channel