Written by David Berenbaum
Running Time: 1:28
as Jim Evers
Marc John Jefferies
Haunted Mansion was visually entertaining, but lacked any sort of worthwhile story to make it really fun. And Eddie Murphy was much too toned down so the movie didn't even have his brand of humor to help prop it up.
Jim and Sara Evers are real estate agents. One day Sara is asked to represent a house in a posh neighborhood, owned by Master Gracie. Little does the Evers family know that a 20 minute side trip will turn out to be the adventure of their lifetime. It seems Gracie Manor is cursed, and all who die there, can not move on to heaven until the curse is broken. Many years earlier, the love of Master Gracie's life killed herself, and he in turn committed suicide as well. But the truth lies somewhere in between.
First off, I am a big Disney fan. And by Disney, I mean the theme parks. I've been to Disney World, Disney Land and Euro Disney a combined 15 or 16 times. And each time I go, the three rides I have to hit are Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. So you can imagine my anticipation for Space Mountain: The Movie. Unlike Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl from earlier this summer, Haunted Mansion was not a good adaptation of the ride. Visually, the movie was actually better than the theme park adventure, but story-wise and everything else-wise, it was really lacking. The joy of Pirates of the Caribbean was that it was a non-stop action ride and Johnny Depp created one of the most entertaining characters of the year. The plot of the movie was straight-forward enough, but it was the casting that really made the difference. In Haunted Mansion, the casting could have been good, but none of the characters had anything to make me like them.
Eddie Murphy is a funny man. No matter how some of his movies flop, when he is let loose, he is as funny as any person working today. But when he's thrown into a movie and kept under wraps, you keep waiting for something funny to happen and it never does. This movie could have been a perfect vehicle for him to go nuts, and there are one or two times when he does, but for the most part, he's restrained. And as we all know, a restrained Eddie Murphy is a boring Eddie Murphy. In fact, Marc John Jefferies, who plays his son, got more laughs. I did enjoy seeing Terence Stamp as the butler, but the rest of the cast suffered from a poor script and no character development. The movie was so short, and the story so lame that none of the characters had any emotion. I didn't care about any of them.
I really think it was the story, or lack of one, that killed the movie (no pun intended). You really had to pay attention to the montage during the opening credits to have any idea what was happening, and even then it didn't make a lot of sense. The theme park ride mentions something about how there are 999 ghosts in the house, and they're looking for one more to join them. Why couldn't that have been the plot? Keep the Evers family the same, but instead have the inhabitants of the house trying to kill one of them so they can make 1000 (and then come up with a reason why that's important). Having the plot revolve around a look alike and trying to break a curse... and now that I think about it, why was the house cursed? Who cursed the house? Two people kill themselves (or are murdered) and then the house has a curse? Where did that come from? And who the hell are the rest of the ghosts milling about the backyard?
What I really enjoyed about the movie was how good it looked. The art director, set decorator and prop guys should be applauded for making a really cool looking house, both indoors and out. There were all sorts of little things here and there that really made the sets look amazing. And that was the first thing I noticed when we get into the house. Everything looked spectacular. And when we got to go into the graveyard in the back, with all the ghosts and the singing busts, I felt like I was part of the ride. Picking out things during the movie that can be seen during the ride was a lot of fun as well, like the painting that turns from a man on a horse to a devil on a horse, or the door that looks like it has something trying to break out of it. I wish as much time had been spent on a story, as was spent creating the visuals of the film.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, Haunted Mansion wasn't up to par with the previous Disney ride-turned-into-film. The story was weak, and the characters were never developed into anything interesting. But the film was visually stunning and I know this may sound odd, but I hope it does well enough to warrant a sequel, because I think there is a lot of potential for a really great movie. Just have your people contact me, and I'll put together a decent story.
Pirates of the Caribbean:
The Curse of the Black Pearl
The Unofficial Guide to
Walt Disney World 2004
The Haunted Mansion:
© 2003 Wolfpack Productions