The Haunted Mansion (2003)
Main cast: Eddie Murphy (Jim Evers), Terence Stamp (Ramsley), Nathaniel Parker (Master Gracey), Marsha Thomason (Sara Evers), Jennifer Tilly (Madame Leota), Wallace Shawn (Ezra), Dina Waters (Emma), Marc John Jefferies (Michael Evers), and Aree Davis (Megan Evers)
Director: Rob Minkoff

Like Pirates Of The Caribbean: Johnny Depp Ate My Mascara, The Haunted Mansion is a movie that is written around a themepark attraction, in this case Disneyworld's (duh) Haunted Mansion. I must admit that when I first heard of this Haunted Mansion, I wanted to go take a look as I always have a fascination for haunted houses in theme parks, thanks to a childhood fascination with stories of ghosts and occult that I never actually outgrew. But for some reason, I never actually had a chance to visit Disneyworld, believe or not, despite having visited USA, France, and Japan at least once in my life. One good thing about this movie is that after watching it, I feel as if I've visited the Haunted Mansion already and I don't even have to go all the way to Disneyworld to do so.

The Haunted Mansion is a movie that doesn't try to be anything more than a CGI-heavy rollercoaster ride. What minimal plot it has, it is about this workaholic real estate agent Jim Evers that makes a mistake of taking a detour during a family outing to check out a prime property. This mansion in question is owned by Master Grady. A too-convenient storm occurs soon after the Evers' arrival, forcing them to spend the night in the mansion. Master Grady's plot becomes clear when he starts making the move on Jim's wife Sara. Apparently Sara is the reincarnation of Master Grady's late lover. Yes, Master Grady is a ghost, just like everyone else living in the mansion. He had an affair with a slave woman and they even planned to marry, until she committed suicide due to a classic "letters gone astray" blunder on both her and Grady's part. So now Jim will have to redeem himself to his family, macho-garbage Hollywood style, by doing acrobatic rescue maneuvres to save the day. I always say that it's easier to say sorry to the missus using flowers and expensive presents, but those men in Hollywood never listen.

I like how this movie presents an interracial romance in a matter-of-fact way and I actually root for Sara and Master Grady because Eddie Murphy is damned annoying. He doesn't seem to know whether he should bark and talk out of his bum, The Nutty Professor-style, or act like a serious schtickmeister, Daddy Day Care-style, and ends up acting as if he's going to howl at the moon if they haven't sedated him beforehand. The children are annoying, Sara is nondescript, Master Grady is bland, and only Terence Stamp, playing the dour butler Ramsley, comes close to leaving an impression on me.

The main stars of the show are of course the special effects. Some are impressive, like Madam Leota the disembodied spirit trapped in a crystal ball, but on the whole, the effects come off as rather stilted and unexciting. The joyless script and the unexceptional special effects mean that The Haunted House has some moments of brief visual thrills, but on the whole it remains a so-so ride. Try watching something fun instead, like The Ghostbusters, The Frighteners, or even The Goonies.

Rating: 58

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