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Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4
THE HAUNTED MANSION is the third Disney movie based on one of its theme park
rides. The first (THE COUNTRY BEARS) was a real dog, and the second (PIRATES
OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL) was a surprisingly huge
critical and financial success.
"So how is the third in this erratic series?" you ask. Not bad, but it never
manages to rise above kind of cute. The best laugh at our screening came when
Michael (Marc John Jefferies), the kid in the movie, utters the recycled line,
"I see dead people."
The story has top-notch real estate agent Jim Evers, played sweetly by Eddie
Murphy, ready to postpone a key family trip for the chance to secure a
lucrative listing, one for a creepy old mansion in the middle of nowhere.
Assuring the kids, Michael and Megan (Aree Davis), and his fellow agent wife,
Sara (Marsha Thomason), that they'll be "twenty minutes tops" when they stop by
to get the owner to sign on the dotted line, Jim ends up getting his family
stuck there overnight, after a freak storm covers the road. Since the place
turns out to be crawling with ghosts, their stay isn't the least bit restful.
The show's charm comes mainly from how closely it reproduces the ride upon
which it is based. If you've ever gone through the Haunted Mansion at
Disneyland and wished that it were a movie, your dreams have been answered,
right down to Madame Leota (Jennifer Tilly), a sassy talking head who lives in
a crystal ball. When Jim doesn't like Madame Leota's responses, she tells him
in no uncertain terms, "Look, I don't make the rules. I just work here." My
personal favorite is four talking heads in the form of stone busts, who sing a
medley of barbershop quartet songs.
There's not much to this family film, but it does pass the time nicely without
anything the least bit offensive occurring. It's even bathroom humor free.
Still, I think that Megan, the story's wonderfully spunky teen, would probably
have said something sarcastic like, "Yeah, it's okay," if she could have voiced
her opinion of the movie.
THE HAUNTED MANSION runs 1:39. It is rated PG for "frightening images,
thematic elements and language" and would be acceptable for kids around 8 and
up. Younger kids might be frightened by the scary images even though they are
all played purely for comedic effect.
My son Jeffrey, age 14, gave it ***, saying that he thought the story was good
and Murphy was funny. He said the costumes and the set decoration deserved
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes