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Thursday, November 27, 2003

Mind your manors

Movie: The Haunted Mansion

Posted on Thu, Nov 27, 2003 at 4:00 AM

***
The Haunted Mansion
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Website: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/hauntedmansion/
Release Date: 2003-11-26
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Jennifer Tilly, Marsha Thomason, Nathaniel Parker
Director: Rob Minkoff
Screenwriter: David Berenbaum
Music Score: Mark Mancina
WorkNameSort: The Haunted Mansion
Our Rating: 3.00

Anybody who expected another "Pirates of the Caribbean" from this questionably developed Magic Kingdom offshoot was living in a fool's theme park. The story -- which subjects an unctuous real-estate agent (Eddie Murphy) and his family to the supernatural fallout of a doomed, centuries-old romance -- was moldy when "Dark Shadows" used it 40 years ago, and the paucity of genuinely clever laugh lines is glaring. But you don't go to a movie like this for the sparkling repartee; you go to ride the ride one more time, and director Rob Minkoff delivers with a slew of sight gags and character cameos that will keep faith with the fans. Meanwhile, even novices will appreciate the "E" ticket gloss of the exemplary set design and art direction. Though the movie doesn't reach the cheese-horror heights of "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (or even "Ghost in the Invisible Bikini"), it's notable for the latter-day contrivances it avoids. Nobody burps. Nobody farts. Nobody raps or forms a boy band. And if the presence of Murphy (the picture's worst element) distresses you too terribly, consider this: Any time you visit the real Mansion, the odds are good that you'll find yourself in the company of an obnoxious dad who thinks he's funny but isn't. So it's almost kismet that the film has one of those, too.

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