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"The Haunted Mansion" Movie Review

Please, No More Rides Based on Disney Movies (Except "Pirates Part 2")

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Haunted Mansion movie

Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Tilly in "The Haunted Mansion."

Walt Disney Pictures
On a scale of “Country Bears” to “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “The Haunted Mansion” looks as fabulous as “Pirates” but falls closer to “Country Bears” in overall effort. The production design looks great but there’s not much to the plot or even to the acting for that matter. Suffice it to say, when the three hitchhiking ghosts appear, you'll be more than ready to join them in getting the heck out of Dodge.

My first question after watching the movie was why did the filmmakers hire Eddie Murphy if they weren’t going to let him be funny? Any attempt at real humor was cut off or toned down to the point where it was diluted beyond recognition. On rare occasions you could see Murphy’s eyes spark and you waited with bated breath but alas, no joke materialized. And the kids - don’t even get me started. I understand they were going for ‘annoying’ but come on, when you alienate the audience so much that they want to lock the kids in the crypt with the zombies and let them battle it out, you know that ‘annoying’ bit has way overplayed itself.

On the other hand, the sets were first-rate. If you’ve ridden the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, you’ll instantly feel at home as the camera travels down hallways and past decorations straight out of the amusement park ride. Doors rattle, knights in armor stand guard over the ghostly haunts, the pictures change as the camera moves past them, busts follow the actors with their eyes, and even Madame Leota is present – or least her head is – encased in its crystal ball. The movie explains the appearance of the skeleton at the beginning of the Haunted Mansion ride and it is kind of cool to see the ballroom used for many of the scenes. But once the novelty of seeing the ride come to life on the big screen passes, what’s left is hardly worth the price of a bargain hour movie ticket.

What little there is to the plot has to do with a mansion that’s haunted (duh) and how the main ghost in charge needs to find his long-lost love in order to reach Heaven. The love being sought appears in the form of Sara Evers (Marsha Thomason), wife of Jim Evers (Eddie Murphy), mother of annoying children Michael (Marc John Jefferies) and Megan (Aree Davis). Not only are the Evers man and wife, they’re also partners in a real estate business. After finally getting Jim to acquiesce to taking a mini-vacation, the family stops by the Haunted Mansion in response to a call for help in selling the place. Once there, they become trapped and it’s up to the smart aleck kids and bumbling dad to save Sara and send the spirits that haunt the place off to Heaven or Hell or another Disney ride. Throw in a smattering of semi-spooky ghosts and zombies and that’s pretty much the extent of the story. Not even Jennifer Tilly as Madame Leota can save the day with her corny yet somewhat funny lines.

My best advice to anyone considering seeing “The Haunted Mansion” movie is save your money for a trip to Disneyland and check out the real Haunted Mansion ride. It’s a spooky, laugh/scream-inducing time that’s a hundred times more enjoyable than this lackluster movie.

GRADE: C

"The Haunted Mansion" was directed by Rob Minkoff and is rated PG for frightening images, thematic elements and language.

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