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The Haunted Mansion (2003)

  Directed by: Rob Minkoff
Written by: David Berenbaum
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Marsha Thomason
Links: The Haunted Mansion on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy on DVD, Buy on Video
Genre: Children's

This movie gets: 2.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

The Haunted Mansion (2003) is also mentioned in mino's review of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003).

"Well, that sucked" - a review by mino

Sometimes, movie reviewing can be a complex art, leaving the reviewer to weigh up a whole host of pluses and minuses in order to distill the essence of a movie down to an easily-digestible morsel of insight.

Then, sometimes, you can boil it down to simple mathematics, like with The Haunted Mansion. Like so:

  • Number of times, while watching The Haunted Mansion, I laughed: 0
  • Number of times, while watching The Haunted Mansion, I wished that I were dead: 807

The Haunted Mansion is a ‘family comedy’ based (presumably rather loosely) on the Disney theme park ride of the same name. If that doesn't frighten you off, well, then the fact that the star of this abomination is the execrable Eddie Murphy certainly should. I mean, honestly, how does he still have a career? The only vaguely watchable Murphy roles are well and truly distant memories by now, and it flabbergasts me that he's still even famous. He's painfully unfunny, and his presence alone would be enough to turn this film into a stinker: all the other things about it that suck are just icing on the cake.

The Haunted Mansion tries to be two things — scary and funny — and fails at both. While I'm obviously a little older than the target market for this movie (it's aimed squarely at the 8-12 age group, or thereabouts), the fact is that even the most highly-strung four-year-old on the planet would have a very hard time working themselves up into even a mild state of fear or tension. The ‘frights’ are so timid, so clichéd, and so generally ‘by-the-numbers’ that it's very hard indeed to ‘get into’ the movie, no matter how hard you try.

And as for the comedy: well, I'll be honest, there are some great jokes in here. However, given that most of them are so venerable that their age can only be determined by radio-carbon dating, some of the gloss is taken off. Alas, all of the jokes that seem to have been written specifically for the movie are distressingly unfunny: so unfunny, in fact, I think at one stage the part of my brain that processes jokes actually started bleeding.

The movie was obviously constrained by the theme park rides in question, and the parts that were obviously based on the rides were the lamest of all. I mean, I've never been to any of the haunted mansion rides, but I assume that the ‘singing heads’ in The Haunted Mansion are based on something from the rides? If not, buggered if I know why they're there, so I assume they are. If they're supposed to be funny, though — wow. They're not. It was at their second appearance, in fact, that the blood actually started coming out of my ears. They bring the whole movie to a grinding halt, that's for sure.

In fact, the pacing of the movie is something that surely deserves a mention. The Haunted Mansion is an effective lesson in how not to pace a film. Comic interludes (well… theoretically comic) are inserted to relive tension, in parts where such relief is not required; even worse, tension is allowed to build too much in other parts, to the extent that even the tiny bit of anxiety you can summon in yourself dissolves into high-grade boredom.

Oh, haven't I mentioned the plot yet? Hmm, well, it hardly seems worth it, but anyway. Murphy and Marsha Thomason are a husband-and-wife real-estate team who get a call inviting them to a creepy old mansion, with a view to selling it. When they get there, kids in tow, they're met by a creepy butler, blah blah, they meet the lord of the manor, blah blah double-blah, they have all sorts of adventures and there are ghosts and zombies and spiders and stuff. Really, there's not much more to say. It's totally formulaic, and not even remotely interesting.

The only redeeming feature I can find for this film, alas, is that it is a very nice-looking film. The production values are faily astounding, and you do get drawn right into the atmosphere thanks to the rather stunning recreation of the manasion itself. However, this minor plus is far outweighed by the fact that The Haunted Mansion is an unfunny, unfrightening, unengaging, horribly boring clunker of a movie that manages to insult the intelligence of everyone in the audience — regardless of their age, IQ, or any learning disorders they might have.

mino gives this movie 2 out of 10.
Review created on Sun 18 Apr 2004

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