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Welcome, World Travelers! The Haunted Mansion? More Like MEH-nsion!

Welcome, World Travelers! The Haunted Mansion? More Like MEH-nsion!

by James Coulter

If there’s one Disney Park attraction with the potential for a good movie, it’s the Haunted Mansion. Even award-winning director Guillermo del Toro himself planned to write and direct a Haunted Mansion film, but sadly those plans never fell through. And, sadly, the only theatrical adaptation of the ride was the critically-panned 2003 live-action movie starring Eddie Murphy.

The good news is that, 20 years after that critical flop, a new live-action Haunted Mansion movie has been released. The bad news is that the film was made by the director of Dear White People and the screenwriter for Ghostbusters 2016. Yeah, it’s as appealing as it sounds! So, will this new Haunted Mansion film please 999 happy haunts with room for a thousand? Or will the chilling challenge be to find a way out of the theater?

The movie follows LaKeith Stanfield, who plays a jaded tour guide for New Orleans. He’s hired by a mother and her son to use his spectral photography to inspect a mansion that’s purportedly haunted. Turns out the haunted mansion really is haunted, and it’s up to him to round up a group of paranormal experts to unravel its haunted mystery. Will they succeed? Or will they die trying?

I’ll cut to the chase here: this movie is not good. I’ve mentioned this fact in previous reviews: the worst thing a movie can be is boring. At least bad movies have something worth talking about, while boring movies like this don’t. I kid you not when I say I am only scraping the bottom for something worth discussing about this movie because I’m being paid to do so. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even bother writing anything.

Say what you want about the 2003 film. That movie was terrible, but at least it was memorably terrible. For as poorly-cast as he was, at least Eddie Murphy had some on-screen charisma and the occasionally funny quip. At least the scenery looked appealingly creepy and somewhat fitting for a Haunted Mansion movie. At least it had some genuinely funny and creepy moments. None of that saves the film as a good movie, but at least it was so bad it’s good.

This movie, on the other hand, isn’t even that bad enough. It was just bland and unmemorable—and considering it’s based on one of the most memorable Disney attractions, that makes it a crime.

The movie has a star-studded cast of otherwise great actors like Danny DeVito, Tiffany Haddish, and Owen Wilson; but while some of their characters had good-enough performances, good enough simply wasn’t enough to justify them.

And the jokes? What jokes? The only joke I can remember that nearly got a chuckle out of me was at the very beginning. It’s when the mother is trying to console her son that the haunted looking mansion isn’t as bad as he thinks it is. Then a possessed suit of armor appears behind her with axe raised. “Nah!” she says. “We leaving.”

That’s it. That’s the only joke that works. Everything else are just the characters throwing out random dialogue at the wall to see what potential joke sticks with nothing landing. If you didn’t

tell me this movie was written by the same person who wrote Ghostbusters 2016–a movie with a running gag about wonton soup and dumplings!—I could have easily guessed.

As is fitting for a Haunted Mansion movie, there are plenty of references to the attraction; however, outside of the Hatbox Ghost, whose performance by Jared Leto (creep though he is) was the only other decent thing about this film, none of the references feel genuine and only feel tacked on to meet a checklist quote for a movie based on the attraction. The only “good” thing the movie does with the Haunted Mansion is flesh out some of the lore; unfortunately, that lore is supporting an otherwise underwhelming movie.

There are a few “creepy” movies that might frighten the little kiddies here and there, and the third act certainly goes insano bonkers enough at the very end to almost become worth the tedious trudge through the first two acts, but otherwise the movie is about as “scary” as it is “funny”—which is not as much.

Overall, it really says something when the best filmed adaptation of the Haunted Mansion stars the Muppets. I wouldn’t even recommend watching this movie on Disney Plus. Just watch the Muppet Haunted Mansion Halloween special. It’s more faithful to the ride and proves to be funnier and more heart-felled than whatever this film was trying to be.

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Staff Reporter

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