Eddie Murphy's latest dud is The Haunted Mansion, Disney's less-noticed attempt to turn one of its rides into a feature-length movie. Generally, making a movie about a haunted house should be pretty easy, but when it is aimed at kids, all things can go up in smoke. And they do.
The problem with The Haunted Mansion is that it isn't nearly goofy enough for little kids - and perhaps a bit too scary in a few parts - and isn't even close to being either funny or scary enough for adults. The result is a cheesy, unsatisfying ride that proves just how amazing Pirates of the Caribbean is.
The plot is pretty simplistic, as you might expect. Murphy is an overworked dad who agrees to take his family on a small vacation to show his beautiful wife, Sara (Marsha Thomason), that he can avoid the real estate market for one weekend. However, he decides to sidetrack for just a few minutes and check out an old mansion that most likely is worth many millions. As you may expect, hopefully, the mansion is haunted by tons of ghosts, and the owner is no exception - he believes that Sara is his dead wife and will stop at nothing to make her his.
First off, I hate stories that involve reincarnation of souls, if only because it is done so many times to such predictable results. How many movies feature a character realizing that he or she looks identical to someone who died a hundred years earlier and that they have been selected to be the body that will bring that person's soul back to life? Countless, countless, countless. These stories are predictable, lame and never suspenseful, and yet Hollywood keeps doing it over, and over and over again.
Second, even for a kid's movie, it's okay to make the audience jump once or twice. It appears as though director Rob Minkoff wanted to make the audience jump in a few spots, but he was either too scared to actually frighten people or just plain failed. The cause is probably a mix of both. Essentially, a PG-rated horror movie is not effective unless done with a lot of creativity, but hey, Casper came out ten years ago.
You would think that with all of the creative ghosts floating around inside the Disney ride that there would be plenty of opportunity to be imaginative, but The Haunted Mansion is surprisingly bland. Its funniest ghost is played by Wallace Shawn, known best for his "Inconceivable" line in The Princess Bride. Murphy is funny at times, but what everyone really wants to see is some goofy ghosts; other than the fat ghost in the horse carriage, nothing really sparked my attention. Just as in the ride, the movie should have been overflowing with ghosts.
Also, the crystal ball woman, played by Jennifer Tilly, is just annoying. Whoever decided to make her a major character should be shot.
The Haunted Mansion does have some good jokes here and there and I enjoyed the two children a lot, especially the little boy who is played by Marc John Jefferies. Murphy is likable enough, though, as in most of his movies, he is a bit annoying at times (I'd still take him over Chris Tucker any day of the week, though).
The Haunted Mansion proves that basing a movie on a ride can only go so far; there still has to be a creative process to make the big screen adventure worth the ride. This movie will quickly fade into oblivion, and, unlike the ghosts in the film, will not stick around for 200 years.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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