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'Haunted Mansion' doesn't scare up much entertainment
Justin at the Movies
Haunted Mansion
Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson, and Tiffany Haddish in "Haunted Mansion."

Haunted Mansion marks the second attempt by Disney to give their long-running attraction a chance to scare moviegoers. The first time was the Eddie Murphy version from 2003 and just like that film, the only thing this new adaptation succeeds in scaring away two hours. 

This version stars LaKeith Stanfield as Ben Matthias, an astrophysicist who meets a girl at a party and falls in love. She's a tour guide for haunted locales and then she's killed in a car accident and he decides to continue running her business but with no passion. 

Meanwhile, a single mom (Rosario Dawson) and her son (Chase W. Dillon) move into a Gothic mansion and want to set up a bed and breakfast. However, they quickly learn that the mansion is occupied by, you guessed it, ghosts. 

Owen Wilson costars as a priest and he reaches out to Ben to help get rid of the ghosts. Wilson's character has tried exorcism, but the power of Christ didn't compel them. Ben doesn't believe in the ghosts, but he reluctantly agrees to go and investigate. 

Ben's methods work as well as you'd expect, so he and the priest decide to call in outside help. Tiffany Haddish plays a psychic who might have powers that can equal what the spirits throw their way. Danny DeVito is a professor who specializes in studying haunted houses. 

The movie attempts to be a horror comedy, but it never really gets funny or scary. A few puns on eggs is the closest this movie achieves and the special effects take center stage but they have diminishing returns. We can sense every time when a ghost is going to peek out and scare the characters and as a result, the movie lacks any genuine suspense to go with its atmosphere.

The cast does what they can to make the material work, but they seem desperate in scene after scene. The characters are only moderately developed and none of them really inhabit this movie except for maybe Haddish. Her performance is perhaps the only one that measures up to the absurdity. Plus, the casting of Oscar winner Jamie Lee Curtis was a mistake as a fortuneteller stuck in a crystal ball. Her character gets a backstory, but apart from the climax, her presence is severely wasted. 

Maybe more development on the characters as well as well-placed humor might've been the way to go. The movie is inconsistent in its tone and for the most part, Haunted Mansion is more likely to bore its audience than to thrill them. 

Some kids might get some enjoyment out of it, provided they don't have too many expectations, but I think the general consensus is probably that adapting the Haunted Mansion twice now into a movie just wasn't a great idea.  


Grade: C


(Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and scary action.)

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