The Haunted Mansion (2003)

DailyView: Day 172, Movie 254

Disney has been trying to make their amusement park rides into feature film franchises for years. Their most successful attempt at this was The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. They have had a box office success with their 2021 Jungle Cruise movie with The Rock and Emily Blunt. They had less success with Mission to Mars and Tomorrowland.

One of their most infamous flops was The Haunted Mansion, a 2003 film starring Eddie Murphy. I’ve always enjoyed Eddie Murphy, but the negative reviews and word of mouth of this movie chased me away. After the Muppet Haunted Mansion special last week, I thought that I would give the film a try. It was on Disney +, which makes it easy streaming.

While it is not a very good movie, I don’t think it was as bad as everybody has said. Perhaps it is one of those movies that if you approach it with low expectations, you enjoy it more.

There are moments that are good. The special effects are excellent. Eddie Murphy is pretty good with his hectic performance, although there are several times when his performance was too manic. Wallace Shawn, who played the butler Ezra, is always a delight.

While the story is simplistic and messy, I did think the third act conclusion was pretty decent.

Real estate agent Jim Evers (Eddie Murphy) is a workaholic and, without realizing it, puts his work ahead of his wife Sara (Marsha Thomason), daughter Megan (Aree Davis) and son Michael (Marc John Jefferies). When he tries to make up for his shortcomings by taking his family away for a weekend, Jim sidetracks the trip to check out a potential house he could sell. When his family arrived at the Haunted mansion, they are trapped inside by a terrible storm and discover that the sidetrip was all a set up from the ghosts that exist inside the mansion, attempting to break a long standing curse.

Terence Stamp played the butler Ramsley, one of the spirits that inhabited the mansion. He worked for his master Gracey (Nathaniel Parker), whose wife Elizabeth had died by her own hands years before, leaving him alone and miserable.

Part of the problem was that the film’s story was all over the place and was there simply to get as many special effects into play as they could possible get. Most of the characters were basic and some were one note. Madame Leota (Jennifer Tilly) was a gypsy spirit inside a crystal ball, but that character was one of my least favorite, most annoying parts of the film.

The themes of the movie were muddled and did not work well together. Some were just touched upon while others were pounded on like a sledge hammer. Inconsistencies raged through the entire movie and coincidences were everywhere.

This movie does not have a lot of funny moments, nor does it have a lot of scares. It’s more like a Goonies-type action movie with a bunch of special effects. There is not enough of either comedy or horror to stand out from the other, and it does not blend well . Had the movie embraced either the comedy or the horror more, I think this would have been more successful.

Still, I liked the ending and the rest of the movie was not the worst thing I have seen. It could have been much better, but looking at it with lower expectations helped me like it more.

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