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Haunted Mansion, The  (2003)


Starring: Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Marsha Thomason

Director: Rob Minkoff

Rating: PG

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Date: April 20, 2004
Review posted: April 19, 2004

Spoilers: None


Reviewed by Gregory L. Amato




A successful real estate agent (Murphy) who enjoys his work just a bit too much promises his family a weekend away from sales. They intend to make one quick stop at an old mansion on the way, and then must discover its spooooooky secrets in order to escape. Based on the Disney attraction of the same name.




Disney fans high off of the ride-turned-film Pirates of the Caribbean may well be looking for another exciting and “fun” movie. If so, look elsewhere.


It’s not that The Haunted Mansion doesn’t deliver on any of the same premises as the infinitely more successful Pirates, it just doesn’t do things quite as well. The special effects look great, the story is easy to follow, and there is comic relief any time things are about to get serious. Unfortunately the comic relief isn’t funny, the story doesn’t make much sense, and the film ends up feeling like an advertisement.


Pirates was not a great movie either, but at least it knew enough to make viewers feel like they were watching an adventure story and not a cash cow. The Haunted Mansion, which includes a number of fine actors, most notable is Terence Stamp as Ramsley, the mansion’s butler, who has a few decent moments. But ultimately the film isn’t very exciting or even redeeming as a children’s movie.


The Haunted Mansion combines great special effects and underused acting talent with a boring story and flat dialog. The film starts off as if it might have something to say about the importance of family, but by the end this theme is completely forgotten and replaced by a simplistic disdain for old, rigid social conventions. A fairly shallow attempt at conveying the ability to face one’s fears is also included, but feels as if it were tacked on to meet a “morals” quota.


On the plus side, the film is only 88 minutes long, I mean short.




Buena Vista presents The Haunted Mansion in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer is clear and sharp, with no visible edge enhancement and very little grain. The ghostly special effects look especially good with such excellent quality video. A fullscreen version of the DVD is also available separately.




Buena Vista presents The Haunted Mansion in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. French and Spanish tracks are also available, as well as English Closed Captions. The film uses positional audio to great advantage, and the sound quality is crisp and clear.




The Haunted Mansion: Secrets Revealed (12 minutes) is a making-of featurette with an understandable focus on the special effects (including how they put Jennifer Tilly’s head in a ball). For a more in-depth look at how the work was done, Anatomy of a Scene: Ghosts in the Graveyard (11 minutes) does an excellent job of showing how the individual effects in that scene were executed.


Two audio commentaries are available on the disc. The first includes producer Don Hahn, visual effects supervisor Jay Redd, and screenwriter David Berenbaum, and overlaps some of the information on the special effects in the two featurettes. The second commentary is with director Rob Minkoff and costume designer Mona May.  The lone deleted scene is an extension of a scene still in the film, where Emma (Dina Waters) and Ezra (Wallace Shawn) explain what is going on.


Disney’s DVD Virtual Ride: The Haunted Mansion is an interactive feature where you find your way through the mansion with the help of Emma and Ezra. This can be accessed via normal DVD players and DVD-ROM drives, whereas several Enhanced Computer Features like the Ghostly Effects Studio and Attraction History Video are for computers only.


The outtakes reel (five minutes) included on the disc is probably funnier than the movie itself, though admittedly that isn’t saying much. Raven’s music video “Superstition” (just over three minutes) is included, as are several previews.




Despite Eddie Murphy’s presence, The Haunted Mansion is more likely to elicit snores than laughs from adults. Lots of extras make the disc worth checking out for Disney fans, but it’s still a very forgettable affair.




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