The Haunted Mansion (2003)
(AKA: Disney's The Haunted Mansion)
(Release Date: November 26, 2003)

1000 Sight Gags and 3 Stars

A Silly romp through a Disney Ride.
Could be worse, could be much, much better!

J.C. Mašek III... Critically Haunted!!!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

When this movie came out, fresh on the heels of the admirable Pirates of the Caribbean everyone was surprised that this sure-to-succeed Disney Ride adaptation was lambasted by Critics and Moviegoers alike.

And they're pretty accurate, because it's really not that good. It's also not that all together terrible either, though! The problem here is mostly script related, because the acting and the SFX are fine. However, for adapting a Ride to a Movie, they should have taken more than just a page from Verbinski! In Pirates of the Caribbean there were a lot of Gracious Nods to the Disneyland Theme Park attraction (my favorite, by the way), but they all seemed to be adornments on a great, great script. With Disney's The Haunted Mansion there are a series of Sight Gags from the Ride (also a great one) that are strung together by a mediocre Barely Scary story line. That said, fans of the Ride will enjoy parts of this and those who haven't ridden the ride will want to. As a Commercial, bravo! It's every bit of what the ABC/ Wonderful World of Disney Tower of Terror TV Movie was. As a Theatrical release with the suggested merits thereof... well... go see Pirates of the Caribbean!

Eddie Murphy betrays his Delirious routine about Horror Movies by appearing here as the workaholic Real Estate-Broking Dad Jim Evers of Evers and Evers Real Estate. His Too-Young wife Sara (the other "Evers" played by the lovely Marsha Thomason) wants a vacation with the kids (Marc John Jefferies and Aree Davis) while Jim wants to sell more Real Estate. When the Creepy Butler of Gracey Manor (Ramsley played by Terrence Stamp!!!) invites Sara to the Mansion for a visit, Jim tries to twist the trip, indeed the whole Vacation into another Real Estate Sale. Who's scarier, me or these guys?

Naturally the invitation was no accident and the whole family ends up traveling through the Haunted Mansion, just like a Disneyland Trip and a good and scary time is had by all... all on screen that is. The Audience will probably be Dazzled by the special effects and a lot annoyed with the story, and just bored with Murphy's Mugging and posing for the Camera.

Again, the Homages to the Ride are a treat for Fans, and an Ad to potential fans. It simply seems that these are all strung together in an obligatory manner without any real story to help this all out. But other moments that are cool relate to some of the Ghouls who come out to Socialize. For example, a Mausoleum of Zombified Gracey Ancestors chasing Murphy is at least as good as the Crew of the Black Pearl becoming Undead in the Moonlight (from an SFX standpoint). No surprise, the skilled hand of Rick Baker was heavily involved in The Haunted Mansion! The Special Effects aren't the problem here... they're great! Especially evident in Jennifer Tilly's Crystal ball-Dwelling Madame Leota, and the quick change from live action to computer animation of the rest of the supporting cast like Wallace Shawn, Dina Spybey, Jeremy Howard and Deep Roy. And for you fans of The Ring movies, there is a brief (and vastly appropriate) spectral appearance by Samara-Double Kelly Stables as "Queen Ghost"!

The problem is the whole thing is stretched across a skeletal plot and a ticklish script about as deep as a Compact Disc Case. What rises this above the complete idiocy that marred similarly SFX-at-the-expense-of-story fiascos like Planet of the Apes (2001) and Dawn of the Dead (2004) is that there are a number of lines and jokes that work! It's not enough to break this into Classic territory, but it's enough to make you focus less on your Grunts and Groans and more on the giggles and laughs that actually work! Not a great movie, but it spanks those that reek of pretension and insult your intelligence.

Three Stars out of Five for Disney's The Haunted Mansion. It's nothing you'll need to buy or anything, but if you've ridden the ride at a Disney Park and could use a few laughs, it's worth a rental. On the deeper side of things, I wonder what's what with Eddie Murphy lately. When I look back at his last several films even Pluto Nash isn't that bad by comparison. Ah, well, back to my Job Lament. Maybe they're hiring Butlers!

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The Haunted Mansion (2003) Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is responsible for his own views, and for the fact that I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks I do, I do, I do, I do, I do believe in Spooks!
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