Haunted Mansion: Bruce McBroom
Owen Gleiberman
November 26, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Haunted Mansion

Current Status
In Season
99 minutes
Wide Release Date
Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Jennifer Tilly
Rob Minkoff
Buena Vista Pictures
David Berenbaum
Mystery and Thriller, Comedy, Kids and Family

We gave it a D+

When you go into a movie called The Haunted Mansion, featuring Eddie Murphy and a lot of old-dark-house clichés, you expect, at the very least, that Murphy will fire off a few amusing jabs at the spirit world. Instead, you get a moment like this: Wallace Shawn flying a horse-drawn carriage through a forest of electro-blue ghosts, at which point Murphy, seated in the back of the coach, lets loose the immortal line “Excuse me, why are all these ghosts still hanging around here?” I doubt Bob Hope could have squeezed a chuckle out of that one.

”The Haunted Mansion” has the inconsequentiality of a horror-cheese comedy without, necessarily, the comedy. Unlike, say, ”Pirates of the Caribbean,” this is one picture based on a Walt Disney theme-park ride that really aims to deliver…the ride. Murphy may still function as a hook for parents, but his plastic-grinned real estate agent, a genial noodge trapped, along with his wife and kids, in a creaky Victorian fun house, serves as our disappointingly neutral tour guide through a random play zone of kiddified CGI. There are floating musical instruments, a fighting skeleton or two, and Jennifer Tilly as a disembodied soothsayer with greenish skin who drops breathy pronouncements from inside her crystal ball. It should all work fine to amaze, or maybe just pacify, your 4-year-old, but ”The Haunted Mansion” is tame and witless enough to make me long for the ancient, dusty fright kitsch of ”The Munsters.” The one actor who escapes the family-friendly doldrums is Terence Stamp, cast as a manservant so cadaverous he looks like he could bust the ghost of Jacob Marley.

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