Spooky House (2000) - Synopsis

It’s nearly Halloween when a group of five children sneak into their town’s legendary “Spooky House.” It’s the scariest place in town and its sole inhabitant, the “Spooky Guy,” is the object of every kid’s fear. Dressed in black with a fake Daliesque mustache and a turban, he walks through the waterfront town accompanied by a 320 pound black jaguar on a leash. The myths surrounding the Spooky Guy are powerful enough to scare even the town’s bumbling bullies. What none of them knows is that the Spooky Guy is the Great Zamboni (BEN KINGSLEY), a world famous magician who has become an embittered recluse after the mysterious disappearance of his wife during the finale of his greatest magic act.

The children break into the Spooky House to retrieve their pet goat that was stolen by the bullies. A host of frightening events quickly sends them running for home. Only the youngest, an eight-year-old orphan named Max (MATT WEINBERG), is brave enough to stay and confront the Spooky Guy and his jaguar. Discovering that Zamboni is a magician, Max is intrigued and tries to befriend him, but to no avail.

In the days that follow, Max continues to pursue the magician’s friendship, attempting to break down the barrier Zamboni has put around himself. One of Max’s buddies, Prescott (SIMON BAKER), uses his computer expertise to unravel the secret of Zamboni’s last show and the disappearance of his wife, Dawn Star. They discover that the last thing he said to her on stage that fateful night was “I hate children!” Max is devastated. But he doesn’t give up on the magician and eventually Zamboni opens up to Max, telling him that he believes his wife ran away because he did not want her to have children, which was what she wanted more than anything in the world.

In the meantime, little Zoe’s (CHAZ MONÉT) goat, Princess, is stolen again and she sets out to rescue her pet with the help of Max, Prescott, Zoe’s big brother, Beans (RONALD JOSHUA SCOTT), and linguistically challenged Russian immigrant Yuri (JASON FUCHS).

On Halloween night they accidentally discover the drop where the bullies hide their stolen goods. The bullies work for Boss (MERCEDES RUEHL), the town’s chain-smoking crime queen. They are led by Mona (KATHARINE ISABELLE) who emulates Boss by intimidating her henchman, Mike the Mouth (MYLES FERGUSON) and Dumb Dave (KYLE LABINE). The children discover Princess among the stolen goods but are in turn discovered by the bullies. Now that the kids know about the crime ring’s operations, they are in danger.

Running from the pursuing gang, the kids panic and enter the Spooky House in search of a place to hide. Determined to seize their prey, the bullies go in after the youngsters. Realizing the children are being threatened, Zamboni teams up with them and uses his magic tricks and illusions to give the bullies the most unexpected and comically terrifying experience of their lives. Boss arrives on the scene and captures Max. She faces the magician in a climactic showdown, but is no match for the Great Zamboni and his magic skills. She is defeated and delivered into the waiting arms of the law.

Despite the friendship that has developed between Max and Zamboni, the magician struggles to ignore Max’s hints that he adopt him. Just when their relationship is at its strongest, Zamboni catches himself, his shield goes up again, and he turns his back on Max. The next day Max is taken away to an orphanage.

The Great Zamboni returns to the stage, putting on a spectacular production. All the kids are there, including Max who arrives with a group of kids from the orphanage. Zamboni picks Max as a volunteer for his final act. He places him inside a rocket and his jaguar in another. When he reopens the door of the rocket the jaguar was in, Max is inside. As the applause dies down, Zamboni announces that he has legally adopted the little boy. Then, in the most unexpected finale of all, he opens the other rocket revealing, to his utter amazement, his beloved Dawn Star! A child has taught him real magic: magic of the heart that has broken the spell and returned his wife to him. Zamboni, Dawn Star and Max have become a true family.