Disney is back with a third version of The Haunted Mansion live adaptation after the 2003 Eddie Murphy film and the 2021 Muppets Haunted Mansion Disney + Special, this time around the cast is packed with comedians and veteran actors trapped in a haunted house throwing out one-liners with a plot that’s so thin, it barely scrapes by. Fortunately, the special effects are top notch and a diverse cast of familiar faces makes this a family Halloween film that will be added to holiday rotations anywhere alongside classics like Hocus Pocus and The Nightmare Before Christmas. That being said, outside of families, there is not much else for general audiences as the plot and laughs are purely for the intended audience.
The story revolves around Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son Travis (Chase W. Dillon) who arrive at a mansion ready to start their new lives, transforming it into a local BNB. They quickly learn that the house is infested with spirits and even if they try to leave, the spirits follow them, so they need to stay inside the house. Gabbie enlists the help of some locals who can find out the origin of the spirits with astrophysicist turned tour operator Ben (LaKeith Stanfield), A priest in Father Kent (Owen Wilson) a supernatural enthusiast Ben (Danny DeVito) and psychic Harriet (Tiffany Haddish). Together, they must find the origin of the haunting and the origins of the Hatbox Ghost (Jared Leto). Through the help of the severed head of Madam Leota (Jamie Lee Curtis) they must find a physical object and ready a ritual to cleanse the mansion of the evil ghost and set the spirits in it free.
While the story is pretty cookie-cutter and definitely family-friendly, the special effects look spectacular. The beautiful design of each ghost is unique and helps the mansion feel alive. We don’t get to spend too much time with one spirit in particular (apart from the Hat Box Ghost of course) these scenes with chasing the occupants of the Mansion help it feel like the ride it is based on. The first two acts of the film are fantastic, there are some solid one-liners courtesy of the talented cast, it is Haddish, though, who steals every scene she is in, which makes the final act of the film so much more of a letdown with its predictable beats and schlocky dialogue.
Haunted Mansion will be a winner with kids and early teenagers, easily slotting into Halloween-themed movies that can be on rotation every season. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do enough to warrant its September release, nearly 2 months too early for the season scenario. The lead performances from the talented cast carry the film through the awkward parts, and while the practical and CGI effects make it look shiny, it is ultimately let down by the rushed ending full of tropes that stop it from being a classic.
Disney’s Haunted Mansion is in cinemas Thursday August 31.
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