January 14, 2004 -- “The Haunted Mansion” is a run-of-the-mill Disney film about a family trapped in a haunted mansion. Despite a talented cast of actors, nothing really stands out in this movie based on a theme park ride.
Eddie Murphy stars as Jim Evers, the father of a family taking a detour from a vacation. Evers, a workaholic realtor, hopes to make a quick sale on a house before continuing on his family vacation. The house turns out to be haunted. The resident head ghost, Nathaniel Parker (“Beverly Hills Ninja”) sees Murphy's wife, Sara (Marsha Thomason of “Black Knight”) as the reincarnation of his long lost love. He wants to reunite with her in unholy matrimony. Evers' kids, Michael (Marc John Jefferies) and Megan (Aree Davis), along with their father, become ghostbusters, trying to save their mother by solving the mystery of the haunted house. They are aided in their quest by a face inside a crystal ball, Madam Leota (Jennifer Tilly of “Bullets Over Broadway”). Trying to thwart them on their quest is the spooky mansion butler, Ramsley (Terence Stamp of “The Limey”). The talented Wallace Shawn (“The Curse of the Jade Scorpion”) also appears as Ezra, a ghost.
Murphy looks like he is just going through the motions in this film, like his heart really isn't in it. The acting isn't the problem, though. The screenplay is not very captivating. There is no real sense of jeopardy, and hence, not much dramatic tension. The story is thin and the attempts at comedy are weak. Otherwise, production values are good, including good visual effects. The makeup art is by multi-award-winner Rick Baker. A graveyard quartet of singing heads are pretty entertaining, even though they don't really fit into the story. There are effective performances by Terrence Stamp as the butler and Nathaniel Parker as the master of the house. It's not really a bad movie, just average. Suitable for a cheap movie rental. It rates a C.
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