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Review: Haunted Mansion
Home Is Where The Haunt Is.
A woman and her son enlist a motley crew of so-called spiritual experts to help rid their home of supernatural squatters.
Back in 2003 Disney finally made a film adaptation of arguably their most popular theme park ride in The Haunted Mansion. For whatever reason Disney released it for Thanksgiving time instead of Halloween time; nonetheless it made barely a dent in the box office with minimal return, was reviewed as one of the worst films of the year by critics, and general audiences loathed it with it currently having audience scores in the 30s over at Rotten Tomatoes.
Flash forward twenty years later (Good lord I’m starting to feel old) and Disney is attempting another adaptation this time taking out the “the” and calling it Haunted Mansion. Once again the movie has had a bizarre release strategy coming out in the middle of the Summer rather than Halloween time, and once again critics have given the film low scores but nowhere nearly as bad as its 2003 predecessor. However audiences have responded much better to this version with it currently being in the 80s on Rotten Tomatoes with them and getting a not great but still good B+ Cinemascore. So after a few days of catching up to 2023 releases I decided to check in and see whether I’d side more with my fellow critics or the common man/woman out in the street.
First off let me say this movie has some obvious flaws. Mainly being the script badly needing some polishing up and another draft or two. It tries to juggle so much that while the movie is still a pretty healthy near two hours long, it makes you feel like its trying to hurry and rush you a few times. Certain story beats and character arcs come out of nowhere and then are forgotten about for too long as if they went ahead with just the first draft of the story. The CGI isn’t atrocious but I do wonder how it’ll age; and for all of the use of it we don’t really get much of the ghosts or even that many Easter eggs from the ride itself - all culminating in a lot of the action being yet another CGI-heavy third act in a Disney film. And finally the comedy in the movie is gonna’ be hit or miss for some, and it relies on certain references that could hurt its chance to potentially pick up steam and become at least a cult classic but you never know with these Disney films as we saw with those box office flops turned 90s kids’ classics Heavyweights and Hocus Pocus.
And yet…I think my fellow critics are being comically and ridiculously over-harsh on this film. I had more fun with this and thought this addressed existentialism a whole lot better than the beloved Barbie did. Even with its flaws I laughed more than a few times, I cared about the characters and wanted to see what would happen to them, and I was intrigued by the plot even with some of the storytelling mishaps. I wasn’t scared by anything, but I didn’t come into this expecting a full-blown horror movie either so I scratched my head whenever I saw marks against the movie for that. The score and set designs were well done albeit maybe nothing spectacular, and I thought the ensemble of Lakeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Owen Wilson, Tiffany Hadish, Danny DeVito, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Chase W Dillon stood out to me as having great fun - though admittedly Stanfield’s character may make one wonder how invested he was. All in all I came in expecting a fun popcorn flick and I got a fun popcorn flick.
That said last week I mentioned that current personal life struggles made me struggle to connect with Barbie, I felt a lot different with this. There’s a subplot regarding Stanfield dealing with the loss of his wife that hit me hard and made me tear up at the end. So admittedly my current personal life tribulations may have play a part in me liking this more than other critics.
Overall I think Disney made a huge mistake in releasing this during the Summer rather than Halloween time because I think audiences are responding to this better than my fellow critics have for a reason. Its a fun time at the movies and I connected with it to the point it got a cry out of me. I give Haunted Mansion a solid B+ as my initial grade for it. It may not be one of the best movies of the year, but I still enjoyed it and can see myself re-watching it down the line for Halloween.