Posted in: Disc Reviews by David Annandale on April 23rd, 2004
Type A real estate salesman Eddie Murphy can’t ever stop selling, even when this meansneglecting his family. His drive lands them all into trouble when he insists they take a detourfrom their vacation to follow up on a mysterious offer concerning the mansion of the title. Soonenough, He and his family are trapped in the massively haunted building, running hither andthither from ghosts, while his wife (Marsha Thomason), believed to be the reincarnation of themaster’s long-lo…t love, runs the risk of being trapped here forever.
Pirates of the Carribean startled everyone by not being obviously based on a themepark ride. That its source material was not self evident was no small part of the reason for itssuccess. The Haunted Mansion is a different story. Here the inspiration is painfullyobvious. The film looks like a ride, but a ride that someone else is taking. Utterly uninvolving,neither funny nor scary, Disneyfied in all the negative senses of that term, the film sits there likea handsomely produced bump on a log.
The sound mix is occasionally a bit rocky. When Jennifer Tilly’s character first deliver hermessage, for instance, the sound effects are so raucous they drown her out. For the most part,however, the sound is almost as strong as the picture. The surround effects are spectacular, withall kinds of enveloping wind and rain, and the placement of the effects is very solid as well. Themusic is well served too.
Drab as the film experience is, the picture is very nice. Razor sharp, devoid of grain or edgeenhancement, the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen picture is blessed by fine, warm colours andexcellent contrasts. Most of the film takes place in dark settings, and the blacks are profoundwhile there is no bleaching of the contrasts. In a word, the thing looks great.
The commentary (by producer Don Hahn, FX supervisor Jay Redd and writer DavidBerenbaum) leans toward the technical side of the film. Then again, it’s not like there’s a a heckof a lot to say about characterization and theme. The outtakes are sublimely dull, and thefeaturettes are fairly standard: “The Haunted Mansion: Secrets Revealed” is typical making-ofstuff and spends some time comparing the film to the ride; “Anatomy of a Scene” looks at thegraveyard sequence in more technical detail. The “Haunted Mansion Virtual Tour” lets younavigate through the mansion in the company of Wallace Shawn, but the game will likely boreany player within seconds. There is also one deleted scene and the “Superstition” music video byRaven. Finally, there are a few trailers. The menu is fully animated and scored.
Younger viewers are likely to have more fun with the DVD-ROM features, which are quiteextensive: they can morph their pictures into ghosts, view the history of the ride, check out thephot galleries, tour the mansion in a more extensive fashion, and have fun with desktop themes,wallpaper and screensavers.
It’s all very expensive, and it looks like a million bucks. It is also lifeless and dull. One morenail in Eddie Murphy’s career coffin.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Raven Music Video
- Making-of Featurette
- Anatomy of a Scene: Ghosts in the Graveyard
- Haunted Mansion Virtual Tour
- Deleted Scene
- Morphing Ghost Host Maker (DVD-ROM)
- History of the Haunted Mansion Attraction (DVD-ROM)
- Photo Galleries (DVD-ROM)
- Desktop Themes/Wallpaper/Screensavers (DVD-ROM)
- Enhanced Virtual Mansion Tour (DVD-ROM)