Drop dead comedy needs a little more substance

Dec. 3, 2003, midnight | By Kate Selby | 20 years, 6 months ago

Eddie Murphy spinning in the air around a crystal ball shouting about needing to change his underwear is always going to be funny. However, this type of short comedic sequence is not enough to revive a boring plot, no matter how funny the individual routine is.

The Haunted Mansion is a typical Disney movie, but Murphy spices it up with hilarious lines that make this theme-park-based-film almost worth the ride. Comments like "next time you're going to think fast before you come back from the dead" and "I'm going to be whoopin' your ass for all eternity" (both said by Murphy) nearly set this comedy apart from most oh-so-cute Disney films.

The story is of Jim Evers (Murphy), a workaholic real estate agent, and his family, who get caught in a huge but unfortunately quite haunted mansion. Jim's wife Sara (Marsha Thomason) bears a striking resemblance to the owner of the mansion's long lost love Elizabeth. Thus the family gets sucked into the plot, as the deceased Edward Gracie (Nathaniel Parker) tries to get Sara to fall in love with. Thus, the family must go on an adventure to escape the confines of the ghostly manor.

In the process, Jim and his two children encounter a floating orb with a gypsy inside, a group of statues who happen to have the skills of a barbershop quartet, and a host of ghosts. The family ends up getting in trouble when Sara is kidnapped by Gracie and is forced to marry him, lest have her children harmed. Jim goes on a crusade, guided by the gypsy inside the orb, to find the key to the mystery of Elizabeth's death and set his wife and family free. However, the ghosts he meets on the way hinder his progress.

Despite the vaporous nature of many of the main characters, the plot had some very tangible problems. First, the writers definitely could have worked a few more plot twists into the story. One of the movie's major downfalls is how predictable it is. Also, although Murphy's presence may trick you into thinking that the movie can be enjoyed by adults as well as children, the story is unsophisticated and seems written expressly to be turned into a high-grossing videogame.

If not for Murphy, the film would be a flop. Thomason brings credibility to it as well. Her portrayal of the caring and appreciative mother is believable, and she balances some of Murphy's comedy.

Another star in the cast is Wallace Shawn, who plays Ezra, the creepy coachman. He and Dina Walters (the maid) are also funny in their secondary roles, and their good acting helps Murphy and Thomason to make up for the banal plot.

However, ultimately the plot is what killed this ghostly comedy. Even a star-studded cast of excellent actors could not bring the film back to life. Nonetheless, if you want a good laugh and don't mind knowing exactly what is going to happen, The Haunted Mansion is a good one to pick up either video on a rainy day.

The Haunted Mansion is rated PG for frightening images, thematic elements and language.

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Kate Selby. Kate Selby is a mean, green, story writing machine! She enjoys rock climbing, yoga, volleyball, writing poetry in her psychological "Zen Zone," and running hurdles. Another hobby which Kate enjoys is laughing at herself, an activity which she pursues quite often as she often does … More »

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