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The Haunted Mansion (PG)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: To be announced...

EDDIE Murphy seems to have found his niche in playing to the children’s market at the moment, but while the ploy is certainly keeping him in roles, it has meant having to sacrifice most of that early comic talent.

Long gone are the days when the actor could stride through a movie, cracking profanity-laden jokes at the expense of anyone who dared cross him, content instead to pander to the pre-teen market in lame vehicles such as Daddy Day Care and Dr Dolittle. His vocal turn in Shrek aside, Murphy appears to be a spent force.

The Haunted Mansion, another Disney movie to be based on a theme park ride, is symptomatic of Murphy’s fall from grace, a film which attempts to trade on his winning charisma, but which feels hopelessly contrived from start to finish, and dull as a result.

Murphy plays workaholic father, Jim Evers, a man who consistently puts the next property deal before family commitments, who cannot resist the temptation to detour to a stately mansion while on his way to a weekend break.

The house in question is located in a remote bayou and owned by the mysterious Master Gracey (Nathaniel Parker) and his sinister butler, Ramsley (Terence Stamp), and while it offers the possibility of presenting the estate agent with the biggest deal of his career, it quickly becomes apparent that Gracey has designs on Evers’ wife and that the home is, indeed, haunted.

The ensuing ‘family adventure’ finds Murphy and kids attempting to escape the mansion, while learning the importance of traditional family values, and spending more time with the kids.

And, for the most part, it’s a tedious affair, enlivened only by the odd jumpy moment, or well-realised sight gag.

Unlike the previous movie to be inspired by a theme park ride, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion lacks any imagination of its own, while consistently failing to put forward any genuinely noteworthy characters.

Murphy is continually found to be over-acting, and over-emphasising virtually every horrid situation he finds himself in, while Stamp, if more engaging than his co-star, comes over too hammy. But then, the whole story is so poorly written, that none of the performers have much to work on.

The film also suffers from curious pacing, and a tendency to be a little too scary for the very young, particularly during a zombie sequence, before arriving at its overly sentimental finale.

Director, Rob Minkoff (a veteran of the Stuart Little movies), fails to infuse his movie with the same sort of family spirit contained within that series, and feels as though he is struggling to cope with the flimsy material as well.

And no matter how good the special effects are, they cannot mask the fact that this is a film which seems to have been built around them, rather than any semblance of characterisation or enjoyment. My advice would be to stick to the ride instead - it’s over far quicker.

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