I remember seeing the original Under Wraps when I was about 5 or 6 years old. I was definitely way past my bedtime and didn’t know any better than to not look away when something scary looking was onscreen. Planting the seeds of the potential love of horror, this 1997 film left its mark on my brain. It’s the reason why I still hesitate to put my hand into the garbage disposal to this day. Looking back, the performances and writing kept it grounded despite everything fantastical happening onscreen. So, when I heard that the film was getting the remake treatment, I hesitated. How could they decide to go in and mess with what’s considered a DCOM classic? Today’s audience of kids and parents are different than what they were 24 years ago, so it does make sense to adjust for the newer audience. With that said, for fans of the OG Under Wraps movie, the latest UNDER WRAPS is not what you’d expect. Glossy and slick in visual execution, with more overt comedy than its predecessor, the new interpretation reads a lot lighter in both tone and in its intro-to-horror elements.
The remake of UNDER WRAPS is directed by Alex Zamm (R.L. Stine’s “The Haunting Hour: Don’t Think About It”), and written by Zamm and William Robertson (Inspector Gadget 2). The film stars Malachi Barton as Marshall, Christian J. Simon as Gilbert, Sophia Hammons as Amy, Phil Wright as Harold, Melanie Brook as Buzzy, Brent Stait as Kubot, Jordana Largy as Diane, Jaime M. Callica as Ted, and Karin Konoval as Ravensworth.
The story follows three 12-year-old friends, Marshall, Gilbert and Amy, all of which are dealing with their own individual struggles in life at the beginning of the film. One night, after they sneak inside Mr. Kubot’s home to find out what was up with a mysterious box they saw him load into his home one night, they happen upon and awaken a mummy. It’s not long before Marshall names the mummy, Harold, as he reminds the young boy of his grandfather. As they try to dig deeper into the mystery of Harold, they soon learn that they have to return the poor soul to his coffin before midnight on Halloween. If they do not, Harold will turn into dust and miss the chance to reunite with his one true love. All they have to do is dodge obnoxious schoolmates, run away from a gang of criminals who want Harold for nefarious purposes, and then some. Will this trio of kids come together to make sure Harold finds love and peace? Or, will they fail and watch their new “ancient” friend poof to dust? You have to watch the film to find out.
It’s difficult not to compare this iteration of UNDER WRAPS to the original, but it does read tonally lighter and sillier than its predecessor. While the original was humourous, the emotional stakes hit harder given how the original approached Harold. Less tragic and more overtly comedic in this iteration, Harold is more adorable. It’s difficult to find anything truly frightening about him despite the overall design of the creature which, upon reflecting on the 1997 version, is more intricately supernatural looking this go-round. This isn’t necessarily a negative criticism of Phil Wright‘s performance. From a physical comedy standpoint, Wright absolutely nails it. His background as a choreographer and dancer shines in many of the scenes. Odessa Bennett’s costume design for Harold is clearly designed to accommodate this range of movement for this iteration of the lovable Mummy and, in terms of functionality, got to give Bennett props for that. It’s clear how the audience has changed when it comes to DCOM movies, with how these Halloween films are tackled now. For those with younger children, though, this film will work best for your young ones.
As for the rest of the performers, Malachi Barton, Christian J. Simon, and Sophia Hammons work well together as our main trio. For a film like this that reads more over-the-top, Malachi Barton’s and Christan J. Simon’s performances work, even if at times I would have liked to have reeled them back a little. Sophia Hammons found a way to keep the performance grounded, yet still theatrical enough to not get lost among the pack. Melanie Brook’s Buzzy was probably my favorite character of the bunch and I’m sure many horror/Halloween-loving parents may take to Buzzy as well. Brent Stait as Kubot isn’t necessarily terrifying, though Stait does give an air of menace. That said, with the more overtly tropey villainous shenanigans Kubot and his henchmen get into, there will be moments where the kids laugh.
Overall, as a Halloween movie, this remake of UNDER WRAPS is definitely a silly time. This film has little winks and nudges for the adults, but this is very much a film for the kids. Appropriate viewing for younger kids, there’s not much in the way of scares that I could pick up on while viewing. I am not certain how older kids (8-12) would take to this film so, my note to the parents out there is, tread carefully. It might lean too silly for the older ones (but Netflix has you covered with Nightbooks if you need something new to distract and entertain them.)
The contemporary comedic remake of the first-ever Disney Channel Original Movie UNDER WRAPS premieres on Friday, October 1 (8 PM ET/PT) on Disney Channel, and Friday, October 8, on Disney+.
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