ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  rob minkoff

RATED  -  pg

GENRE  -  haunted

LENGTH  -  99 minutes

RELEASED  -  26 november 2003

DISTRIBUTOR  -  walt disney picture

OFFICIAL SITE  -  haunted mansion

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $90,000,000
the haunted mansion - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the haunted mansion at

buy the dvd from the haunted mansion at

when a workaholic visits a haunted house with his family during a job interview, he meets a ghost that teaches him a lesson about the importance of the family that he has neglected.

when this screenplay first emerged in 1993, jim carrey was attached.


picture from the haunted mansion

picture from the haunted mansion

picture from the haunted mansion


two out of four possible stars

Viewers who have been on the "Haunted Mansion" ride at Disneyland before will probably enjoy seeing a few familiar sights in this film, much the way it was entertaining seeing pieces of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride into that Disneyland ride based film. While it's easy to make fun of this film because of the fact that the ride came before the movie, the fact remains that the actual ride doesn't have a specific storyline. And the one created for the film is actually a rather solid plot. Though the dialogue isn't always the freshest and is sometimes too on target, Eddie Murphy seems to cut in with a sufficient amount of jokes to please fans looking for his irreverent sense of humor.

Blessed equally with both verbal and physical comedic abilities, half of Murphy's charm comes from what machinations he puts his body through, while the remaining entertainment emerges courtesy of his quick-witted improvisational techniques. Perhaps criticisms on the dialogue can be seen as a minor complaint, given the film's PG rating and its family friendly copyright holder. Though in point of fact, it's surprising that the ratings board allowed such rather scary images of ragged zombies and skeletons to receive such a lenient rating. When Murphy and his daughter are in a crypt, for example, they are surrounded and chased by a hoard of scarily decaying corpses that will cause even some of the older members of the audience to cringe in fear.

The recommendation of "parental guidance suggested" under this film's PG rating should certainly be heeded by parents, as a child under the age of ten or so might actually come away from the film with a few nightmares if their parent isn't in the seat beside them in the theater. But there is very little real violence in the film, so as far as the subject matter is concerned, the film is benign in that regard. And the ideas put forth in the script that are supposed to teach the audience a few things about life, family, and the usual Disney "lessons" are quite suitable for children, so parents need not fear their child will be influenced badly by the cast or dialogue.

And though some of the English accents used by the "residents" of the haunted mansion might cause a few eyebrows to raise as far as believability is concerned (the film takes place in Louisiana), perhaps creating the right atmosphere for the production was a more important focus. After all, ghosts seem so much more ghostly when they speak the Queen's English, right? And in the scheme of things, after the movie ends and the entirety of the mystery has been revealed, the accents probably benefited the actors.

Terrence Stamp, who plays the butler, "Ramsley," is both comedic and scary in his portrayal owing much to his delightfully droll facial expressions and a wealth of camera tricks. Nathaniel Parker, who plays the owner of the mansion, "Master Gracie," is seemingly at home in his part as well, as his English accent and earnest countenance are aided mightily by his appropriately dignified pattern of speech. Playing Eddie Murphy's wife, fellow real estate agent "Sara," Marsha Thomason (also a Brit, though she dons a Yank accent for this film) has probably the weakest performance of the film, though her role is not in any way substandard and probably deserves to be labeled "suitable" rather than anything less complimentary.

In the roles of Murphy's children, the adorable Marc John Jefferies turns on the charm as "Michael" and newcomer Aree Davis, playing "Megan," has the unusual character trait of being an intelligent child. Far too often the roles of children are played by young actors with little to say and little to think, but allowing the children some intelligent voice of their own was a smart move on the screenwriter's part. In more minor roles, Wallace Shawn makes the most of his limited screen time as "Ezra," one of the servants, and Dina Waters, playing the cook "Emma," is delightful as well. Lastly, Meg Tilly is affably wry as usual, playing the disembodied head of gypsy "Madame Leota," inserting just enough ironic humor into her performance to make her character a memorable one.

So while the film definitely caters to children in its approach of the ever-present "Disney lesson," the enthusiastic performances easily put a dent in some of the tepid dialogue spots. It's easy to shoot down areas of the script where characters say exactly what they mean (instead of being deliberately vague and potential interesting as one would hope to be in real life), but when the experience is geared toward children, those youngest viewers in the audience were probably in the forefront of the filmmakers' minds.

Eddie Murphy fans should note though that this film is an improvement on his recent film, the mild Daddy Day Care as the jokes throughout this film are, on face value, much funnier. The Haunted Mansion probably won't stand up to the scrutiny of older viewers, but for parents with children, the film should be a pleasant experience.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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