FILM REVIEW — Spooky family fun at the “Haunted Mansion”

Published 12:02 am Friday, July 28, 2023

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“Haunted Mansion”

Walt Disney

Directed by Justin Simien

Starring Rosario Dawson, Lakeith Stanfield, Jared Leto, Owen Wilson, Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito and Jamie Lee Curtis

Rated PG-13

3 Stars

The new Disney movie, “Haunted Mansion” arrives in theaters this weekend, causing a bit of confusion for some older viewers who might remember that Disney already produced “The Haunted Mansion” movie with Eddie Murphy back in 2003.

The first film was a tonal mess, as well as a critical and box office flop, so I understand why the Mouse House might want to take a second crack at turning a beloved theme park ride into spooky-but-fun blockbuster movie. Particularly if there’s a chance it might turn out as well for them as that little movie based on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

It turns out that it’s the second time that’s the charm, as “Haunted Mansion” is a solid family film. It features an endearing family-gathering story line, along with some very funny moments and a lot of kid-level spooky ghosts.

It is rated PG-13, so perhaps not young kid-level spooky, but there’s nothing here that should give anybody nightmares.

Rosario Dawson stars and a women who moves into an old Louisiana mansion with her young son, hoping to turn it into a bed and breakfast. The problem is that the place if filled with ghosts. Hundreds of ghosts!

She wisely tries to flee, only to find that the ghosts are following her.

In desperation, she reaches out to a moping scientist (Lakeith Stanfield), and local priest (Owen Wilson), a sketchy medium (Tiffany Haddish) and an oddball professor (Danny DeVito).

Together they hope to find a way to convince the ghosts to move on from this mortal coil—or at least out of their mansion.

Along with their efforts to take care of their ghost problem, there’s a bit of a slow burn romance/family building story going on here. There’s a certain wisdom in crafting this story so Dawson and Stanfield aren’t asked to be funny. I think that was one of the problems with the first film.

Here, they are simply two grieving people who bond as they try to protect a little boy (Chase Dillon).

The rest of the cast is fleshed out with actors who know how to deliver a punch line, which they do quite often to lighten the mood. In a bit of a surprise, I found myself laughing out loud several times during the course of the movie.

This is a rock-solid supporting cast that also features some fun cameo appearances that might make you smile (or scratch your head). All things considered, “The Haunted Mansion” deserves points for some really good cast choices.

That’s all well and good, but the ghosts are obviously the reason you brought the whole family to see “Haunted Mansion.” The special effects feel like something you might see at a theme park attraction, which is exactly how it should be.

They are spooky, silly and mostly safe specters, occasionally funny-looking and seldom terrifying to behold. More than any other element, these ghostly special effects strike the right tone to make “Haunted Mansion” work as a family-friendly spook show.

I don’t know if it merits multiple sequels, as was the case in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” the last theme park ride-turned-summer movie blockbuster. I’m not “dying” to see a second film, but if it should be as much fun as this latest film, then I’m more that willing to opt for another night of spooky family fun.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at