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Ghostbusters Cast Spotlight - Tara Charendoff/Strong in Sabrina TV Movies

PermalinkBy Paul Rudoff on Nov. 28, 2017 at 11:30 PM , Categories: Cast & Crew , Tags: castspotlight
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A year after their romantic Roman holiday, Sabrina and Gwen reunited in Australia for Sabrina Down Under, which premiered on September 26, 1999 on ABC, during the fourth season of Sabrina The Teenage Witch. The movie opens up with Sabrina on a helicopter ride above the Great Barrier Reef, where she spots "someone" in the water. The chopper lands on Hamilton Island, where a smiling Gwen is waiting for her. Gwen promised that she would not do any magic on this vacation, after what happened last time, but she assures Sabrina that her skills have improved. Guess she needs to practice some more, as she not only conjured up a nice lei, but also gave Sabrina a bunny tail. Looks like we're in for some more wacky hijinks with Gwen. This'll be fun!

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At the resort, both girls are happy that they're free of their furry companions, unaware that Salem goes there every year to get away from his witchy master. Now that Salem's subplot is set up, it's back to the girls we go and - bestill my beating heart - they're in bikinis! Nothing naughty, of course, but I never complain when I can see some more of Tara's fantastic feminine form. Another reason to get excited for when I eventually cover Senior Trip. You also get to see Melissa Joan Hart's pierced naval, back when that wasn't such a commonplace thing to have.

Marine biologist Dr. Julian Martin (Peter O'Brien) enters the picture, and the next day they join him on a dive expedition. Gwen, who keeps wearing swimwear in my favorite color: orange, isn't too happy about getting up so early, until she sees the hunks that will be with them. While our gal pals are exploring underwater life, Sabrina turns herself into a fish, much to Gwen's amazement. The CGI here is not bad for 1999 and a TV movie budget, which is saying a lot because fish Sabrina looks like she came out of the major motion picture Shark Tale that wouldn't be released for another five years! Back at the resort, Salem is romancing another feline familiar named Hillary.

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Gwen gets out of the water and is startled by a new character named Barnaby (Scott Michaelson), who sneaks up behind her. Who is he? Where did he come from? Before Gwen has a chance to find out, Sabrina pops out of the water and Barnaby disappears. A few scenes and a costume change later, Sabrina and Gwen are walking on the beach when they stumble upon a washed up merman. Gwen gets a look at his face and recognizes him as Barnaby. I thought his name would have been Ethel. She had no idea he was a mer-MAN, and she put a special emphasis on "man". Gotta love the way Tara plays Gwen as boy crazy horny.

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They bring him back to their hotel room, where they frighten the housekeeping staff. Gwen instinctively does her "freeze time/water dousing" spell; the same one she did when she originally found out that Sabrina was a witch in Rome. While carrying him away, Sabrina meets up with Salem. You knew they would eventually find out that the other was there. Back at Salem's room, they revive Barnaby and he tells them his tail...err, tale. The girls find a spell that will give him legs for 48 hours, and he won't even have to give up his voice in the process! I bet Ariel wished she knew Sabrina and Gwen. (Fun Fact: Tara voiced Ariel's daughter, Melody, in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea. Photos of Tara at the movie premiere, and in the Rome movie, can be found on the Getty Images website.)

While Barnaby is trying out his new legs on the beach, they run into his mer-sister Fin (Lindsay Sloane). Lindsay played Sabrina's best friend Valerie on the TV series, and the fact that the two characters look exactly like each other is never mentioned (or apparently noticed) by Sabrina, which is further proof that these two Sabrina TV movies exist in a separate universe from the TV series. After Fin swims off in disgust of his new appendages, our witches take Barnaby to Dr. Martin, who gives him an ointment for his rash. After they leave, his assistant comes in with photos of the creature they chased for a half-hour in the sea, and the doc notices that the creature has the same rash as Barnaby. Why I do believe we have proof of the existance of merpeople! After they return to the resort, Gwen rushes off with a certain twinkle in her eye to take a windsurfing lession with the beefcake teacher, Jerome (Conrad Coleby). Cue the montage of Sabrina and Barnaby having fun, Salem and Hillary getting pampered, and Gwen getting windsurfing lessons.

Later, at the resort talent show, Jerome performs "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean", a traditional Scottish folk song. He's dressed as a mermaid, which Barnaby finds racially insensitive. Just kidding. This movie was made in 1999, not 2017. Actually, Barnaby thinks Jerome is his aunt. The next morning, Sabrina steals medicine from the Marine Research Institue to give to the ailing Fin, then meets up with Gwen, Barnaby, and Salem at the dock. Sabrina gets a ride from Barnaby and Fin's pet dolphin Sprout, which makes Gwen jealous. She does a little magic to conjure up a dolphin of her own, but accidently turns Salem into a fish instead. "Oh, Frizzle!" YES! The catchphrases are back! We heard a "Wicked!" earlier, and now we get an "Oh, Frizzle!" We don't get as many of them as we did in Rome, but at least we get a couple of them. A few hours later, "Doctor Sabrina, Medicine Witch" returns from her house call to find Gwen and Barnaby waiting for her. They all go to dinner together, where they find fish Salem in the tank. Sabrina turns him back into a cat, but not soon enough for him to keep his dinner date with cat Hillary.

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The next day, with mere hours left until Barnaby gets his tail back, they discover the tracker Dr. Martin planted on Sabrina when she stole the medicine. They fear that he will find the merperson lagoon, so they go to confront him, but he's gone. Although Gwen left with Sabrina, for some reason, she is nowhere to be found when Sabrina tracks down Dr. Martin. Where did Gwen go? She and Barnaby come running down to the dock, where they find Sabrina watching our nemesis and his crew sail away. Gwen comes up with the brillant idea to conjure up a huge storm to keep them away from the lagoon, which just so happens to be a spell that Sabrina has been dying to try out ever since she got her witch's license.

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The spell works perfectly, but not without a small problem: Sabrina gets struck by lightning and is unconscious on the beach. Alright! Now Gwen gets to take over! Well, kinda sorta. She casts a spell to transport her and Sabrina back to their hotel room, hoping beyond all hope that one of her spells will finally work as planned, and sure enough, it does. Eventually Sabrina comes to and Gwen fills her in on what went wrong. They then meet up with Salem at the dock, who informs them that the spell on Barnaby has worn off just in time for Dr. Martin to find him and hold him hostage. Because movies have "convient timing", Fin just so happens to swim up in time to hear this upsetting news. She swims off to rescue her brother.

Back at the resort, a crowd and a news reporter have gathered to learn about the mysterious discovery Dr. Martin has swimming around in the pool. I could point out so many implausable things about this section of the movie, not the least of which are resort guests holding up microphones and tape recorders (backwards!) as if they were reporters, or the lack of security and mass hysteria, but this isn't exactly the type of movie meant to be held up to that kind of scrutinization. Sabrina and Gwen devise a plan to rescue Barnaby involving windsurfing instructor Jerome. I won't spoil it, but suffice it to say, they couldn't have cut out his musical performance earlier because of this scene.

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Our heroines get Barnaby back to the sea, but Dr. Martin and his crew are there to fish him out. Sabrina's favorite scUBER driver Sprout shows up to take her to the boat, leaving Gwen to her own devices. Confidently, she does a little magic, and teleports herself to the middle of the air above the boat! Just like Wyle E. Coyote, once she realizes her error, she drops into the water below. I blame Sabrina for taking the dolphin and leaving Gwen to work with her unreliable magic. Fin, whom last we knew, was going from the dock to the resort to rescue her brother, is seen again swimming in the sea just offshore from the dock and the boat. That means that she has spent the last hour (or whatever considerable amount of time has passed) just swimming around in the same place!

Aboard the boat, Sabrina unties the fishing nets while Gwen just stands there, apparently. Dr. Martin catches Sabrina, and also catches Fin in the net. She managed to free her brother, but got herself caught in the process. Barnaby swims back, and so does Sprout, who brought the rare fish to Sabrina that she and Dr. Martin were discussing much earlier in the movie that one and only time. While distracted by it, Sabrina pulls a knife out of his pocket, and no one ever says, "That's not a knife, this is a knife." This is Australia; the reference is right there! Meanwhile, Gwen is just there as pretty scenery since she, literally, has nothing to do in this big climax (aside from holding a bucket and a large stick). Why even have her there on the boat since she doesn't factor into anything?

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Sabrina makes Dr. Martin see the error of his ways and the merpeople are freed. What? Did you really think the "bad guy" would win and they'd be eating merpeople for dinner at the restaurant tonight? Our little epilogue sees Gwen making out with Jerome. You go girl! You get it, get it. Sadly, she'll be going back to London, so her search for a soulmate continues. We'll never know what happens with her as this is her last appearance in the franchise. Too bad we never got a Gwen spin-off. Maybe they can put Gwen/Tara in the new dark Sabrina reboot series planned for The CW as a companion to Riverdale. Salem's and Sabrina's plots are resolved, but we don't care about them and neither has any bearing on the TV series they'll be going back to, so why bother. After our dynamic duo has one final swim with their merfriends, we fade to black and the credits roll.

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These two movies aren't Tara's only appearances in the Sabrina franchise. Tara provided the voice of Molly Dolly in the Season 3 episode "Good Will Haunting", which aired on October 30, 1998, a few weeks after the Rome movie. This episode is also notable for having a reunion of the Laugh-In cast. You can find some audio clips on The Sights and Sounds of Tara page.

Sabrina Goes To Rome is available on The Christmas Episodes DVD (reviewed here) and The Final/7th Season DVD set (reviewed here). Sabrina Down Under is available on the Sabrina Down Under DVD (reviewed here).


For the complete list of Spook Central's Ghostbusters Cast Spotlight posts, click here. Thanks to Nasaterm.com for the spotlight background I used in the title banner that appears at the top of this post.

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In Loving Memory of Joel Richard Rudoff (July 28, 1944 - January 20, 2014)

In Loving Memory of Linda Joyce Rudoff (July 12, 1948 - November 29, 2015)

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