If The Haunted Mansion (the third film in as many years adapted from a Disney theme park ride) is remotely tolerable, that may have to do with Elf screenwriter David Berenbaum. The opening credits set up the flimsy history that brings real estate power couple Jim (Eddie Murphy) and Sara Evers (Marsha Thomason) to a rundown estate they think they’re going to sell to someone else. Soon the backstory moves front-and-center and the Evers clan begins to butt heads with all sorts of kooky ghosts, flying musical instruments, and rotting corpses. The haunted house tropes are overly familiar. From the threatening paintings to the dry-heaving doors, the film’s haunted house tropes are as familiar here as they are in Nintendo’s GameCube’s “Lugi’s Haunted House.” Courtesy of director Rob Minkoff, there’s a non-threatening storybook quality to the film that should go over well with the kids but may just bore parents to death. Less dorky than you’d imagine, The Haunted Mansion also isn’t very inspired. The biggest surprise here may be that Jennifer Tilly, as a ghostly fourtune-teller trapped inside her own crystal ball, is not the best thing about the film. That honor goes to Terence Stamp’s voice inflection. Though the perpetually toothy Murphy needs to be cock-blocked a few times (“At Evers and Evers, we want you to be happy for evers and evers” is his company’s shrill motto), Berenbaum seems to have fun making Jim and his son Michael (Marc John Jefferies) the chicken-shits of the film’s story. Jim tries to help Michael kill a spider but can’t seem to smash the poor thing. His daughter, Megan (Aree Davis), does it for him, and as she walks off, Daddy tells his son, “Whack your own spider!” That’s about as subversive as The Haunted Mansion gets, which is kind of sad considering how genuinely inspired the set designs really are.
- Rob Minkoff
- David Berenbaum
- Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Jennifer Tilly, Marsha Thomason, Nathaniel Parker, Dina Spybey, Aree Davis, Marc John Jefferies, Wallace Shawn
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