The Haunted Mansion Review
Jim Evers (Eddie Murphy) is a slick estate agent who's been getting grief from his family lately for all the time he spends at work. He's promised to take them away for a weekend's vacation but when his wife and business partner Sara (Marsha Thomason) receives a mysterious phone call from the owner and possible seller of a large country mansion, Jim sees dollar signs and insists they take a detour to meet him. Arriving at the ancient, decaying manor house, whose big iron gates naturally swing open of their own accord, they're greeted by an equally ancient and decaying butler called Ramsley (Terence Stamp). Inside, they meet the building's owner, Master Gracey (Nathaniel Parker), a handsome, intense young man who seems less interested in selling his property than he is in Sara. When a sudden storm floods the road leading up to the house, the Evers reluctantly accept Gracey's offer to spend the night in the mansion. No sooner are they shown to their rooms than spooky things start happening.
The Haunted Mansion is the third recent Disney film to be based on one of its Disneyland theme park rides. It comes after the blockbusting Pirates Of The Caribbean and the straight-to-video Country Bears. While the pirate flick successfully took the highlights of the ride that inspired it and fitted them into a witty, full-blooded adventure movie, The Haunted Mansion never reconciles its theme park elements - the comic phantoms and jokey Mummy-style action sequences - with the surprisingly tragic (if unoriginal) ghost story which serves as the plot. It also makes the same mistake as the recent run of straight horror movies featuring haunted houses, like The Haunting, House On Haunted Hill and 13 Ghosts, by trying to substitute expensive sets and special effects for atmosphere and a satisfying story. A $90 million budget has been spent on creating creepy, gothic sets that look just like the creepy, gothic sets in every other haunted house movie and they do little to distract from the dull, derivative script. Despite a running time of less than ninety minutes, including lengthy credits, the film drags.
It's another disappointment from Eddie Murphy, who's rehashed his toned-down, kiddie-friendly routine from the Dr Dolittle movies and Daddy Day Care, this time reacting to ghosts instead of animals or toddlers. OK, he does get a few laughs, mostly from making fun of his estate agent character, and the movie is undoubtedly better with him than without him but is this really what Murphy wants to be doing? Collecting easy paycheques by playing the bumbling dad in kids' movies? Eddie Murphy is arguably the funniest screen comedian to have emerged in the last 25 years. He single-handedly kept Saturday Night Live going after John Belushi, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd had left and in the mid 1980s, a time when virtually no other black actor could get a lead role, he was the top box office draw in the world. His career has seen its share of ups and downs but he's always come back and proved how talented he is with a Nutty Professor or a Bowfinger. Sadly the good ones are becoming fewer and further between. Next up is Daddy Day Care 2.