Haunted Mansion Review
By Shawn McKenzie 11/28/2003
I have been getting very sick of seeing Eddie Murphy in family films. I remember the good old days of Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America, but his only success lately has been in movies that you can take your kids to see. Despite that fact, I was looking forward to Haunted Mansion because I highly enjoyed Disneyís last theme park ride-themed movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. It wasnít quite as good as that summer blockbuster, but fortunately it wasnít the worst thing Iíve seen this year.
Jim Evers (Murphy) is a successful and busy realtor who runs Evers & Evers Real Estate with his wife Sara (Marsha Thomason.) He thinks that he needs to work hard to provide a posh lifestyle for his family, but they hardly ever get to see him. He promises Sara and their kids, 13-year-old Megan (Aree Davis) and her 10-year-old brother, Michael (Marc John Jefferies), that they can go up to a lake cabin for the weekend. Before that weekend though, Sara gets a call asking her to come alone to meet a potential client interested in selling his mansion. Since it is on the way to the lake, Jim insists on stopping there with her, since it could mean a big sale. When he and his family arrive at the mansion, they see a decrepit old building with a graveyard in the backyard. They are greeted at the door by the head butler, Ramsley (Terence Stamp), a creepy man who appears to represent the building more than the owner, Master Gracey (Nathaniel Parker) does. They also meet the other staff, including waiter Ezra (Wallace Shawn) and maid Emma (Dina Waters.) As they have dinner with Gracey, a sudden storm floods the roads. The Evers are forced to have to stay there overnight. That night, Gracey tells Sara the story of his grandfather and his heartbreaking life with his former love Elizabeth, who took her own life, sending him into a fatal depression. Meanwhile, Jim and the kids separately get lost while looking around the huge mansion. Jim encounters a live Gypsy womanís head in a crystal ball. She turns out to be a fortuneteller named Madame Leota (Jennifer Tilly), who sends Jim and eventually the kids on some weird tasks to find out the truth about the mansion and the curse placed upon it. Along the way, they come across several ghosts and spirits whose souls are trapped in the house, kind of like how the family is trapped there. They try to find a way out of the mansion, which may involve solving the mystery that the headless Gypsy sends them to unravel.
The best thing I can say about this film is that it is better than Daddy Day Care. It also appears to be the most faithful to its source material of the three theme park movies that have come out (The Country Bears was the first.) Bears doesnít have much more to it than your local Chuck E. Cheese, so the movie didnít have much to it either. Pirates was a great movie, but other than one brief scene in one of the pirate towns, it didnít reference the ride much. This movie had many elements of the ride. Singing busts, mirrors with independently moving images, moving suits of armor, etc. fill this movie.
At first, I thought maybe the movie might be a little too scary for kids. It had a few kids jumping and screaming in the theater that I saw it in. I then remembered that the ride had the same scares, so I thought it was okay. Maybe some very little kids or kids that are a little too sensitive might be disturbed, but in general itís just fun. Why this movie wasnít released in October I donít know.
Haunted Mansion isnít a bad time at the theater, but Iím still hoping that Murphy will do an independent movie or something, because Iíd like to see him in a good non-family film again. Should I hope for this filmís failure?
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