Starring: Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Nathaniel Parker, Marsha Thomason,
Jennifer Tilly, Wallace Shawn, Dina Spybey, Marc John Jefferies
MPAA: Rated PG for frightening images, thematic elements and language
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No doubt you've heard of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. It's the spooky old house in New Orleans Square, and one of the park's most popular attractions. Well, just like another popular ride on the opposite side of the same square, the executives at Disney Studios have decided to bet on The Haunted Mansion as a sure-fire box-office hit. Foolish mortals. Don't they know that lightning never strikes the same place twice?
Eddie Murphy plays Jim Evers, overly exuberant real estate agent and slightly inattentive husband and father. You see, Jim promised his wife and kids an adventure-filled family getaway at the lake, but just couldn't resist a chance to list stately Gracey Manor on the way out of town. So much for the family getaway! Apparently, the Evers family doesn't know that Gracey Manor is the happy haunting ground for many a grim, grinning ghost. Of course, you can't really blame them, since in this movie, the only grin to be found is the one permanently plastered across Eddie Murphy's face.
True to the theme and fan-folklore surrounding the ride, the cursed history of Gracey Manor is told as a tragic love story. A risky move, as this tale of romance gone wrong is pretty dark stuff to include in a family comedy. It's Eddie Murphy's job to lighten the mood, doing what he does best. Strange as it may seem, this mix results in a movie that is slight on both fun and frights. Imagine walking through the first half of The Haunted Mansion ride, you know, the dull part, accompanied by the talking donkey from Shrek. Okay, now imagine doing that for ninety minutes. Get the idea?
I do, however, give credit to screenwriter David Berenbaum for attempting to give the film an actual plot! Besides telling the backstory of the Manor's ghostly host, the movie also incorporates some fun versions of many scenes from the ride.
The Haunted Mansion will likely be more entertaining for those who have not yet experienced the Disneyland attraction. Though, it's kind of a shame that an entire generation will now go on the ride, only to think, "Hey, that's just like the movie!" I was also a bit disappointed that my two favorite characters, the caretaker and his dog, were not included in the film. If memory serves, they were the only 'living' characters on the ride. Why couldn't the Evers family meet up with them? Uh, oh... I may just have inadvertently given those Disney execs an idea for Haunted Mansion II! Let's hope they're all too busy working on Tiki Room: The Motion Picture to have noticed.