The Haunted Mansion

By Mark Ramsey | 2005/11/28

Welcome foolish mortals to a movie aimed squarely at foolish mortals and their foolish mortal offspring.

It’s the cinematic version of my favorite old school Disneyland attraction. And boy I wasn’t disappointed, because disappointment is exactly what I expected.

The Haunted Mansion is one green dragon and a Helen Reddy ditty away from the nagging feeling that Disney should find a more honest way to earn a buck. What’s haunting this mansion, anyway, the ghosts of wasted potential and profligate greed galore?

Let’s see, would I rather watch a creatively bankrupt ninety minute ad for a theme park attraction or a puss-filled boil? Well that depends on whether they’re any different, doesn’t it?

I’d sooner look on as old Walt slowly thaws on a rotisserie with an apple stuffed into his mouth than sit through another 30 frames of this crap per second.

The Haunted Mansion is characteristic of a profit motive that drives an idea that drives a package that drives a script that drives that inconsequential afterthought called a story. You can count on one hand the cases where the desire for profit produced a great story rather than vice versa. And you won’t need to spare a finger for this movie – unless it’s the middle one, thrust upward.

hauntedmanstion_tilly.jpgNowadays, folks say “remember when Eddie Murphy could make you laugh” the same way they say “remember the Alamo.” Eddie hasn’t been funny since before stirrup pants were funny. And here he continues his long transformation from the Captain of cutting edge comics to the Captain of Kangaroos. Insipid and flaccid family fare is Eddie’s crack, and this crack is whack. Stop lighting up Ozzie Nelson, dude!

Clustered around Eddie are actors so close to the bottom rung of the Screen Actor’s Guild they have to sweep the dust bunnies off their head shots. Normally one expects acting of this caliber to be accompanied by a stage show and a buffet dinner. Note to Disney: Never cast the chorus line of the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Pity poor Terence Stamp, the once distinguished actor now brooding and grumbling his way through this rent-check of a movie. He’s a butler with hair so breezily feathered back, he looks like he could blast out a chorus of “Oh Sherry.”

Pity poor Wallace Shawn, screeching in that uniquely annoying Wallace Shawn way, thus dooming himself eternally to screechy and annoying Wallace Shawn roles.

It’s fitting that so many of these characters are ghosts, because by the end of this movie you’ll be glad they’re all dead and you’ll wish you were, too.

Here’s a fresh plot twist: Eddie’s wife turns out to be a dead ringer for the mansion master’s long dead mistress. Aha! There’s the painting of the mistress and it looks just like Eddie’s wife! Hey, I’ve never seen THAT plot twist before!

hauntedmansion_singingheads.jpgListen Disney, if you’re going to have idiot monkeys hammering out a script, at least pick idiot monkeys that are new to Hollywood.

Before you know it, Eddie’s spouse is possessed by the dead woman’s spirit and she’s kissing the master of the house as Eddie looks on. What’s this? The faint whiff of wife-swapping? At what point did Disney protagonists become swingers?

Did the mistress commit suicide? Or was she murdered? And was it because Terence Stamp was jealous of her and coveted his master’s affections? Hey Disney, Chip ‘n Dale are calling, they want their homoerotic subtext back.

Yes, zombies, ghosts, murder, hanging, suicide, wife-swapping, and homoeroticism. Fun for the whole family!

The Haunted Mansion is too scary for young kids, too boring for older ones, and too painful for any adult who remembers a once hilarious Eddie Murphy.

“I see dead people,” Eddie’s movie son says with no sense of irony and certainly no awareness that one of the worst movie’s in Disney’s recent history is dry heaving a joke at the expense of one of the best.

Somewhere out there, Disney’s business partners at Pixar are laughing their heads off. It’s their goose that’s laying the golden eggs nowadays. It’s Disney’s goose that’s cooked.

The Haunted Mansion isn’t funny, it isn’t entertaining, it isn’t cute. It’s a movie full of ghosts. No wonder it’s lifeless.

Photos Copyright ©2003 Walt Disney Pictures


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