The Haunted Mansion

The Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl was a huge hit; The Country Bears was a huge box-office disappointment – what is the connection? They are both based on Di$ney theme park rides. The Haunted Mansion is the latest in the theme park to film transgressions.

Eddie Murphy is Jim Evers a real estate agent who on more than one occasion has neglected his wife Sara (the gorgeous Marsha Thomason) and his two children Michael and Megan (Marc John Jeffries and Aree Davies respectively) for the sake of a prospective deal.

When the opportunity to sell the sprawling Edward Grace Estate, Jim cannot resist cutting into his family’s holiday to pay a visit to discuss the terms of sale with the wealthy owner Master Gracey (Nathaniel Parker).

When the Evers arrive they are greeted by the sinister and spooky head butler Ramsley (Terence Stamp). Unfortunately when the Evers arrive at the mansion, the weather mysteriously takes a turns for the worse and they are forced to take the offer of spending the night at the mysterious house where things are becoming stranger by the minute.

Jim manages to loose himself in the sprawling house and discovers some strange things going on such as the weird butler (Wallace Shaw) and housemaid (Dina Waters) and the ghostly floating head in a globe, Madame Leota (Jennifer Tilly).

It transpires that Master Gracey fell in love with a beautiful woman, but due to tragic circumstances, the woman Elizabeth, took her own life. Utterly heartbroken, Gracey hung himself from the observatory tower, thus cursing the house and trapping all who dwell within the house – including the 999 spirits in the graveyard which is located behind the house. So if Gracey hung himself, then who is the mysterious man claiming to be Gracey who met the Evers when they arrived? He couldn’t be the same person could he?

Things take a turn for the worse when it turns out that Sara is the spitting image of Elizabeth and if she is the reincarnation of the dead woman, Sara’s death will lift the curse.

The Haunted Mansion is a very shallow film that doesn’t deal with any of the difficult issues of an interracial relationship in old New Orleans would have been dangerous to a wealthy family – but, hey, it’s a kiddie’s film so the sabotage of such a relationship would be a bit too deep to go into for such an affair.

Performances are nothing to write home about. Eddie Murphy adds another quick grin-and-cash-the-cheque role to his increasingly weakening Curriculum Vitae – it seems for every good role he does he adds two bad nowadays. His charm cannot carry the film unfortunately and the weakness of the supporting cast doesn’t help. Marsha Thomason does little else besides being the eye candy and the two children are stilted and have two emotions – lacklustre and wide-eyed horror – both done badly. Terrance Stamp is surprisingly wooden and doesn’t convey any sort of menace. The three people who come across relatively unscathed are Wallace Shaw, Dina Waters and Jennifer Tilly, who have roles that provide the most of the limited laughs.

The promising start falls apart when the formulaic Hollywood nonsense takes control and trite dialogue and over-the-top predictability take over. Only very young children might enjoy The Haunted Mansion and the special effects with a couple of laughs might garner a slight recommendation but for the most part its one of the films to avoid until Eddie Murphy gets back on track – hopefully Shrek 2 will not disappoint.

SCORE 4/10

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