Disney is no stranger to turning their theme park rides into films, and while none of them have been as profitable at the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, that hasn’t stopped the House of Mouse from trying to capture lighting in a bottle twice. Speaking of twice, Haunted Mansion is Disney’s second attempt at digging up old graves following 2003’s The Haunted Mansion. Unlike the Eddie Murphy film, this adaptation aims for more scares than laughs, but still embraces both for another family friendly Disney adventure. Its reluctance to push any boundaries is exactly why it ends up being only mildly haunting and neither scary enough or funny enough to leave any lasting impression. There’s no straying from the track for this film ride.
Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her young son Travis (Chase W. Dillon) move into their new home, the massive Gracey Manor deep in the heart of Louisiana. Their excitement for a fresh start quickly turns to horror when they learn that their house is haunted. Unable to truly leave because the ghosts simply follow them wherever they go, Gabbie recruits a colorful cast of characters who can hopefully help her free the ghosts. There’s Ben (LaKeith Stanfield) a former astrophysicist turned tour guide who has invented a camera that can see ghosts, Father Kent (Owen Wilson), psychic Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), and house historian Bruce (Danny DeVito). Together they uncover the dark truth behind Gracey Manor and work towards ridding themselves from its clutches.
It’s been a long time since I last rode The Haunted Mansion ride at Disney, but I still have vivid memories of riding the “Doom Buggies” through the halls and the big ballroom party with all the dancing ghosts. Haunted Mansion does a good job at adapting the the ride for the silver screen. It might not be as fun and terrifying as the ride itself, but the moments pulled straight from the theme park are sure to put a smile on your face. The visual and special effects are all well done, with special care given to the look and feel of the mansion to make it as realistic to the ride as possible. Disney fans are sure to have fun finding all the references and easter eggs. And trust me, there are a lot.
Haunted Mansion‘s story is fine enough to keep the film moving forward. The ensemble cast can be hit or miss, depending on who’s interacting with who. There are some great moments between LaKeith Stanfield and Owen Wilson, and Danny DeVito is always good for producing a laugh. It can be overkill at times, however. Jamie Lee Curtis plays a psychic head stuck inside a crystal ball and hams it up with an outrageous accent. Don’t be afraid if a groan comes out of your mouth instead of a laugh sometimes.
As far as frights go, the film is geared more towards a younger audience. Nothing is ever too scary. There are a few creepy moments, but they are quickly quelled by a joke or two. Nothing lingers for any real length. That goes for when the credits start rolling as well. The film itself is fine but doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression. The story, characters, spooks, and scares are all decent enough. If anything, it’s a good 2-hour distraction for the kids.
Disney’s Haunted Mansion is most suited to have kids and fans of the theme park ride as guests. They’re the ones who will take away the most from this horror comedy that isn’t quite scary or funny enough for general audiences. There’s nothing particularly bad about the film, but it’s completely forgettable. I’d have no issue with spending the night in this mildly haunted mansion.
Unlike the Eddie Murphy film, this adaptation aims for more scares than laughs, but still embraces both for another family friendly Disney adventure. It’s reluctance to push any boundaries is exactly why it ends up being mildly haunting and neither scary enough or funny enough to leave any lasting impression.