Haunted Mansion Never Breathes Life into the Classic Ride

Haunted Mansion Never Breathes Life into the Classic Ride

As I watched Haunted Mansion, I found myself rooting for a mucosa plane as I could finger the mucosa flailing. I could finger the talent overdue and on the screen, trying to pull it wideness the finish line. Like a beleaguered visiting baseball team playing the second game of a doubleheader without any rest, the tint and production are trying to make a largest mucosa than the studio will allow. That it comes so tropical to stuff good is disappointing but moreover somewhat of an achievement.

Justin Simien’s Haunted Mansion isn’t as bad as it could be or as good as I wish it were. However, a summer full of upstage and shrewd editing from Bomani Story’s The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster to Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, Simien’s Haunted Mansion reminds us all too well how lousy editing can skiver a good movie in its tracks. Though I doubt the sloppy editing is the fault of the editor, Phillip J. Bartell, or Simien. The culprit is increasingly than likely studio interference.

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Left to right: Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), Gabbie (Rosario Dawson), Ben (LaKeith Stanfield), and Professor Bruce Davis (Danny DeVito) explore the manor.

There is far too much competence on screen for it to be solely bad filmmaking. The special effects and production diamond have a lushness and a weight to them that sometimes requite moments of a thrill ride. Fitting since Haunted Mansion is a remake of the Eddie Murphy 2003 movie based on the infamous theme park ride of the same name. Still, unlike, say, Pirates of the Caribbean, Simien gets bogged lanugo in paying homage to the ride at the expense of the story. Plane though screenwriter Katie Dippold does a helluva job finding ways to tousle in homages to the ride while moreover giving Haunted Mansion themes and ideas vastitude a theme park.

The movie’s plot is that Gabbie and Travis move to New Orleans and Gracey Manor only to discover their new home is haunted. Moreover, plane though they flee, the ghosts follow them and gravity them to return to the mansion, substantially trapping them. Interestingly, the way Dippold’s script gathers the notation together has a light-hearted organic quality.

Gabbie saw Father Kent (Owen Wilson) and asked him for help. He entered the manor and is now held captive, so he reaches out to a paranormal investigator, Ben. Ben then suggests they get a psychic, Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), which then requires them to find out increasingly well-nigh Gracie Manor, which ways they need a historian Professor Bruce (Danny DeVito). Dippold and Simien’s vulpine gathering of the team is informal and ingenus in its simplicity. That several notation are not truthful well-nigh who they are adds a necessary bit of comedic intrigue.

Of course, the theme of the movie is grief. What else could it be in a movie well-nigh ghosts and haunted houses? Dippold specifically looks at the inescapability of grief in the ways that we must squatter it no matter how much we wish we didn’t. Unfortunately, neither Dippold’s script nor Simien’s direction overly really sticks the landing. For instance, the movie focuses increasingly on Ben (Lakieth Stanfield) and his grief over his wife than on young Travis (Chase W. Dillion) grieving his father’s death. Increasingly confusingly, the movie ignores the suffering of Travis’s mother, Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) over the loss of her husband. 

The most remarkable thing about Haunted Mansion is that despite the sold cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Winona Ryder, Jared Leto, and Dan Levy, young Dillion stands out. The kid is terrific and lands every joke, and though his arc dealing with his father’s death was truncated, he made it work. I ultimately land on the side of not liking Haunted Mansion, but I fervently hope the movie does well, if only so I can see him in increasingly things. He has a recreate and effortless energy that allows him to hold his own versus the likes of Dawson and DeVito.

The rest of the tint is unconfined as well, doing the weightier with what they can as Simien struggles to find the right narrative shortcuts and falters in trying to wastefulness the eerie suspense with the kooky fun of an old-school Disney movie. Stanfield and Dawson have a sweet chemistry, unbearable that makes their coupling a foregone conclusion by the movie’s end. 

Granted, I’m a soft touch regarding DeVito and Wilson. Both maintain a talent of seeming to do little while doing a multitude. Wilson has spent a career finding many ways to turn a simple expression into a prism of emotion, while DeVito seems incapable of finding a false note to play.

Haunted Mansion isn’t unwatchable, and the tint is so likable that plane when it’s too rhythmically choppy for its own good, it’s still entertaining. It’s just that Simien never achieves any momentum. The themes and story beats are evident, but he never quotes sews them together in a way that makes anything work. 

Jefferey Waldron’s camera can bring Gracey Manor to unbearable life that it has a vibe and a life of its own. The effects and the set diamond lend an eerie weft that Waldron’s camera powerfully captures—Simien and Waldron pepper Haunted Mansion with several scenes that are positively overcrowded with imagination and visual vivacity. Movies with this many visual effects can often finger lifeless or too glossy. Simien and Waldron strike a wastefulness permitting the surreal to seem real enough, capturing the undercurrent of New Orleans. Still, other times Haunted Mansion feels too sterile, not immersed enough, as if we are observers and not participants. 

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Chase W. Dillon as Travis nearly walks yonder with the movie.

I suspect studio meddling; perhaps they wanted increasingly nods to the ride at the expense of a few needed weft beats. All I know is that I laughed increasingly than a few times, but I moreover never found myself all that invested in anything. I waited for the movie to focus, hit its stride, and finally come together. Instead, I found myself watching a climax in that I intellectually understood what was happening but emotionally felt like they skipped a few steps. 

Haunted Mansion is that rare beast, a well-made movie that isn’t very good. All the pieces are there, and the talent and effort are self-evident, but the final product still feels lacking.

Images courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

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