There is, mercifully, no singing in "Twitches Too," but that's about the only brand signature missing from the latest addition to the Disney Channel collection. Although nowhere near as heralded as this year's "High School Musical" sequel, "Twitches Too" is also, as the "Too" would indicate, the second in a burgeoning franchise.
No one understands aspirational tweenage like Disney, and in the "Twitches" films, no wish-fulfillment scenario goes unexploited. In the first, simply "Twitches," Harry Potter met "The Patty Duke Show" as twins raised apart discovered each other, their talent for witchcraft (twin witches equal twitches, get it?) and a magical kingdom where they are princesses. Who are also double Dutch champions and rock stars. No, just kidding. I mean, after the princess part.
A classic hero journey, "Twitches" saw the two bond in love and friendship to dispel the evil uncle (nods to Hamlet, or "Lion King," or whatever) who had killed their father, enslaved their mother, banished their friends and shrouded the kingdom in darkness. All the while texting friends and wearing cute shoes. Joseph Campbell by way of Libby Lu.
"Twitches Too" picks up right where you think it would. Alex (Tia Mowry) is now living with her twin Camryn (Tamera Mowry), and, of course, they could not be more different. Alex, raised by a single mother now conveniently dead, is sensible and academically ambitious; Camryn, who grew up with wealthy parents, is a bit more ditsy and spoiled, though lovable nonetheless. Being novice magical princesses, they, and they alone, are surprised to learn that all is not well in the kingdom of Coventry. Something is stirring in the Shadowlands, and while Alex is convinced it is their father, still alive, their mother, Miranda (Kristen Wilson), fears it is that evil uncle, one Thantos, who appears to have the indestructible properties of every modern storybook villain.
If this sounds a little silly, it is. Harmless, of course, in its earnest Twitches Rule way, but with many points off for banality. The Mowrys are appealing young women, and a pair of about-to-be-married magical sidekicks do their best to liven things up, but the funniest line is reserved for a pair of statues. "Did you hear?" one says to another, "she lost an arm and then had to go to a museum."
When your best line is a throwaway by a statue, you know something's rotten in the state of Coventry.
Without a compelling narrative, interesting characters or even really good magic, the adult reviewer of "Twitches Too" is forced to while away the time considering a thesis on the Disney canon and where "Twitches Too" might fall. Well, the trusty themes -- personal responsibility, the sanctity of friendship and family, self-trust -- are all too pat and obvious here; the personal journey is not so much a journey as a jaunt through predictable plot points and a few minor special effects. As in "The Princess Diaries," these ordinary girls gone royal are reminded that ruling a kingdom is not all tiaras and ball gowns, which they seem to understand much more in theory than fact. "You don't care about us, you don't care about Dad," a teary Alex tells her mother. "All you care about is your precious kingdom."
Well, yes, dear, and may we introduce you to, if not Elizabeth I and II, then at least Helen Mirren.
Likewise, the trademark Disney-cratic blur -- of race, age and socioeconomic factors -- doesn't play as well here as it has in other films, as refreshing as it is to see a mixed-race couple portrayed with no comment. It is unclear why writer Daniel Berendsen chose to make the twitches 21. The Mowrys could just as easily play 18, which makes more sense. Why would self-respecting 21-year-olds be living with Alex's mortal parents when they should be off in some scuzzy apartment coping with first jobs and fending off drunken boyfriends? And why did Berendsen bother to have the two girls raised under such different circumstances if it's not going to be used to any greater effect than having Alex speak sympathetically to a kitchen boy with eyes for Camryn?
This is what happens when writers revisit old territory with nothing new to offer but twins. But it must be pointed out that I am far from the target audience. For the record, my two children, 9 and 7, have watched "Twitches Too" multiple times, at their own request, and recommended it highly to their friends. So there you are: One man's twitch is another man's treat.
Where: Disney Channel
When: 8 to 9:30 tonight, with repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Rating: TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children)