13
Jan
09

Review: The Haunted Mansion

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A feature film based on a quaint amusement park attraction might have looked like a tricky proposition—that is, until the runaway success of Disney ride-turned-movie Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. But while Disney smartly snagged Lion King and Stuart Little director Rob Minkoff to orchestrate its new ride flick The Haunted Mansion, no concept is slam-dunk enough to rest on the shoulders of the increasingly unbankable Eddie Murphy. Murphy plays Jim Evers, an ambitious New Orleans real estate agent who has begun to neglect his family in favor of continuing membership in the Million Dollar Club. Taking his family on vacation, Evers tries to squeeze in a sales meeting at the titular mansion, but a sudden rainstorm waylays them for the night with the manor’s ghostly inhabitants, who think Mrs. Evers (British actress Marsha Thomason, concentrating on her American accent more than her acting) is the reincarnated lost love of the house’s owner. Murphy still has the easy charisma that made him a star, but he seems as lost in Elf screenwriter David Berenbaum’s script as his character is in the creep shack. Minkoff and Berenbaum give Murphy little more to do than mug, interact with CGI, or save his imperiled kids (Marc John Jeffries and Aree Davis)—each of whom is written either so wimpy or so sassy that you want to slap them instead of root for them. And Terrence Stamp, whose lifeless line readings as butler Ramsley have little to do with the fact he plays a ghost, knocks Mansion off its already shaky foundation whenever he materializes. Yes, the set design does evoke nostalgia for childhood vacations by fleshing out the real Haunted Mansion—right down to those cheesy singing busts. But with slogging exposition, “missions” for the Evers clan that mimic the tie-in video game, and plot holes big enough to drive Murphy’s paycheck through, Mansion is as tedious to the paying customer as waiting in a neverending line for a ride at Disneyland.

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