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The Haunted Mansion

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Marsha Thomason, Aree Davis, Marc John Jefferies, Terence Stamp, Nathaniel Parker, Jennifer Tilly, Wallace Shawn, Dina Spybey

Rated: PG for language, frightening images and thematic elements

Runtime: 99 minutes

Jim Evers (Murphy) is a realtor who will stop at nothing to make a deal. He even goes as far as missing his anniversary dinner with wife (and realtor partner) Sara (Thomason) to field new prospects. To get back in her good graces, Jim suggests that the two of them, along with their children Megan (Davis) and Michael (Jefferies) go on a family outing. It seems like a simple enough plan until the Evers receive a mysterious phone call from Ramsley (Stamp), the butler working on behalf of Master Gracey (Parker). Gracey, it seems, is hoping to meet with Sara (supposedly since he liked her picture on the Evers and Evers Realty promotional flyer better) about selling his remote historic mansion which has been in his family for a number of years. Although Sara isn’t too keen on the idea, Jim jumps at the chance, convincing the family it’ll just be a quick stop on their trip.

When the Evers arrive, it’s obvious that this isn’t the typical home that they’re used to. The place seems worn down, with overgrown vines, dusty and down right creepy. (We won’t even mention the graveyard that’s on the property.) The Evers are in a hurry to leave but soon find themselves as unwilling overnight guests when a sudden storm arises and washes out the only road that leads to and from the property. If you think the Evers are just going to settle down for a good night’s sleep, then think again.

Jim, waiting to meet with Master Gracey, finds himself following a series of secret passages that eventually leads him to a haunted mirror and a crystal ball that holds the disembodied head of Madame Leota (Tilly). Meanwhile, the children have been following a spectral blue orb that seems to be trying to reveal a secret to them. Sara, however, seems to be in the greatest danger with Master Gracey and Ramsley convinced that she is actually Elizabeth, the true love of Gracey who supposedly committed suicide over a hundred years earlier. Besides thinking that the pair is insane, Sara and the others soon realize one thing: everyone in the house is a ghost! Will Jim be able to save his family or will they become permanent residents of “The Haunted Mansion”?

Have you ever watched a movie, thinking it was on the verge of being really good or doing something completely unexpected, only to be disappointed when it was all said and done? This is how “The Haunted Mansion” felt. Not that it’s a horrible movie, but it could have been so much better.

The movie, based on the popular Disney attraction, did have some good moments. I thought the cast was good, although some characters, such as Ezra (Shawn) and Emma (Spybey), were slightly underutilized. The ghostly effects were also fun to watch.

My favorite action sequences had to be the graveyard scene where we finally see what is actually living (or I guess I should say “not quite living”) in the cemetery and Jim and Megan having to fight off “the living dead” in the mausoleum.

“The Haunted Mansion” also had the side story with Gracey and Elizabeth. I wish the movie would have explored this avenue a bit more. The whole story seemed to be glossed over in flashbacks to bring you up to speed with why they would think Sara could be her returning to him. Further character development would have added a little more substance to the film. At times it was easy to feel detached from the characters to the point where you really didn’t care either way what happened to them.

As I mentioned above, “The Haunted Mansion” isn’t a horrible movie. It’s a family friendly film that’s good for a few laughs and action moments if you’re looking to kill an hour and a half.

My Rating: 2 ½ out of 5 stars

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