Haunted Mansion

on November 26, 2003 by Tim Cogshell
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"Haunted Mansion" isn't scary, and it's probably not supposed to be--it's a Walt Disney movie, after all, conceived in the "Casper" or "Addams Family" vein of paranormal films. The problem is, it wasn't conceived in the vein of a particularly clever or funny movie either. It is pro forma, with trite special effects, uninspired dialogue (save for the occasional sharp Eddie Murphyism) and predictable beats down to the last note. The kids are even cute in that Central Casting kind of way.

The Evers, Jim (Murphy) and Sara ("Black Knight's" Marsha Thomason), are realtors, and Jim is a workaholic. After missing yet another family whatever, he agrees to take the brood on a weekend getaway; they only have to make one stop at the infamous Gracey Manor to sign the biggest deal of their career. What they find is a creepy house full of dusty old ghosts left over from a century ago. It seems there was an incident during which the master of the manor (Nathaniel Parker, a British actor noted for the "Inspector Lynley" series) killed himself just after his only true love--who happens to look just like Sara--committed suicide. Or did she? Anyway, the late Master Gracey wants his girlfriend/Sara back and Eddie and the kids and some ghostly buddies have to save her.

Eddie Murphy isn't exactly walking through the role--that would imply the presence of a role, but he's strangely not there, replaced by special effects and two-bit carnival gags: Jennifer Tilly as Madame Loeta, a floating head inside a crystal ball; a quartet of singing graveyard busts; the occasional digital skeleton. It'd be fun for the whole family...if it was any fun. Starring Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Nathaniel Parker, Marsha Thomason, Jennifer Tilly and Wallace Shawn. Directed by Rob Minkoff. Written by David Berenbaum. Produced by Don Hahn and Andrew Gunn. A Buena Vista release. Comedy. Rated PG for frightening images, thematic elements and language. Running time: 100 min

Tags: Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Nathaniel Parker, Marsha Thomason, Jennifer Tilly, Wallace Shawn, Rob Minkoff, David Berenbaum, Don Hahn, Andrew Gunn, Buena Vista, Comedy
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