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:: The Haunted Mansion

It seems that once upon a time there used to be the feature film first, and then would come the theme park ride, the video game, the TV series, and numerous other lucrative spin-offs. Not any more, as producers, starved of original ideas, seem determined to use any source for inspiration for the next movie.

Obviously buoyed by the unexpected runaway success of Pirates Of The Caribbean, the big budget spectacular based on a theme park ride, Disney have plundered another popular attraction for the big screen. But this time
around they have miscalculated, as The Haunted Mansion is a first rate stinker! In trying to incorporate all the familiar ingredients and experiences from the ride into the film, the producers have come unstuck. The film is neither very funny nor particularly scary, and the special effects are clumsy and decidedly second rate.

Eddie Murphy plays Jim Evers, a smarmy workaholic real estate agent who places his work above his family. But his plans to have a rare weekend with his family are ruined when his wife Sara (Marsha Thomason) is offered an exclusive opportunity to sell a historic mansion. The mansion, complete with its own cemetery in the sprawling gardens, also comes with a dark and spooky history, an undead and headless soothsayer (Jennifer Tilly) and a couple of nervous ghosts. How is Sara connected to this dark and creepy mansion? And what role does creepy servant Ramsley (Terence Stamp, clearly slumming it in an undemanding role) play in these mysterious events? In trying to unravel the mysteries of the house and its past secrets, Evers discovers some of the more important values in life and eventually he learns the importance of family and love.

This dreary haunted house tale is directed so woodenly by Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little 1 & 2) that one can almost hear it creaking around the edges - and not from any spooks or scary moments, but rather from the
overwhelming air of tiredness and staleness that permeates every level of the production. In what is fast becoming the nadir of his career, Murphy seems determined to keep making facile, family-friendly fare that he can take his own kids to. But these films (Doctor Dolittle and its sequel, Daddy Day Care, etc) are far less interesting than his earlier stuff (Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places, etc), which had an edgy quality and raw energy. Even his usual stock of mannerisms fails to inject any energy into this pedestrian and disappointing film.