Director: Justin Simien
Starring: LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson, Chase W. Dillon, Dan Levy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jared Leto
Runtime: 2 hr 3 mins
Rating: PG13 (Frightening Scenes)
Released By: Walt Disney
Opening Day: 9 August 2023
Synopsis: Inspired by the classic theme park attraction, “Haunted Mansion” is about a woman and her son who enlist a motley crew of so - called spiritual experts to help rid their home of supernatural squatters.
If you don’t already know by now, there are countless ways Disney is making money. Besides the animated and live action movies (plus the direct to video sequels), the company has various theme parks around the world. And the attractions in these theme parks have been the basis of numerous movies, with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise being the most notable of them all. There have also been movies like The Country Bears (2002), Tomorrowland (2015) and Jungle Cruise (2021) which were based on actual Disney Park attractions.
Back in 2003, Rob Minkoff directed The Haunted Mansion based on the theme park attraction of the same name. Despite getting bad reviews from critics, the movie starring Eddie Murphy performed well at the box office and gained a cult following over the years. It is probably due to business considerations (and the popularity of the dark ride attraction) that Disney greenlit a reboot directed by Justin Simien. And so, here we have the supernatural horror comedy for today’s viewers two decades on.
The movie is a star studded affair. LaKeith Stanfield plays an astrophysicist who used to embrace life until his fiancée died. Now, he leads ghost tours in New Orleans and looks like he is ready to pick a fight with any enthusiastic tourist. He gets a paid job to photograph ghosts for a single mother (Rosario Dawson) and her son, who are staying in a supposed haunted mansion. What started as a money making stint turns into an investigation of the supernatural, and a motley crew comes together for this adventure.
The members include a supposed exorcist (Owen Wilson), a fumbling professor (Danny DeVito) and an aspiring psychic (Tiffany Haddish). It is nice to see the ensemble cast together delivering funny one liners (mostly from Wilson and DeVito). It does feel like the actors had an enjoyable time filming the scenes.
The humans spend time in the haunted mansion, and come face to face with a helpful medium whose disembodied head appears in crystal ball (Jamie Lee Curtis) and a vengeful ghost in a cloak and top hat holding a hatbox (Jared Leto), among countless other supernatural beings. The ghosts are a visual treat, and you'd expect nothing less from Disney.
Viewers who have been on The Haunted Mansion ride will know Madame Leota and the Hatbox Ghost, two very identifiable features when of the attractions’ ride-through tour where visitors are experience hauntings on vehicles known as Doom Buggies. If you have been on the ride, you will a fun time identifying easter eggs which are inspired by the attraction. It may even inspire you to book a ticket to visit a Disney Park with your family soon.
This is a movie meant for everyone in the family, which is everything is family friendly. The scares are just right without being exploitative, there is no blood and gore (even Leto’s antagonist character delivers just the right amount of menance without giving kids nightmares), and there is a wholesome message about coming to terms with loved ones who are gone. Adults and teenagers who want to be shaken by a scary movie should look elsewhere.
(This outing to The Haunted Mansion is a family-friendly affair, and will please fans of the famous Disney Park ride)
Review by John Li