"This is not the Eddie Murphy I choose to remember."
Back when Eddie Murphy was still young, brave and beholden to nothing but the rules of effective comedy, he offered some schtick about how he'd never be stupid enough to spend a night in an Amityville-style haunted house. Remember that joke? It was funny, right? Well, here comes Murphy as the expensive front-man for...a stupid haunted house comedy.Chalk it up to silly coincidence, but I think it illustrates a bigger picture: back then, Murphy mocked the Haunted House conventions because it was solid comedy material; he shows up in The Haunted Mansion because he currently can't sell movie tickets unless he's starring in a mindless kiddie flick. Either way, it's pretty sad.
Of all the movies based on amusement park attractions, The Haunted Mansion is the second-best. It's also the second-worst. The bottom of this particular barrel is filled with The Country Bears. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is the Citizen Kane of ride-based movies. Which leaves The Haunted Mansion, which is a film too inconsequential to be truly awful, and just banal enough to irritate anyone over the age of 12.
Murphy stars as a real estate agent who brings his wife and two children to the Gracie mansion in the hopes of selling the place. There he meets a sad-sack owner and a handful of forcefully colorful employees, some of whom are ghostly and others that are inside crystal balls.
With a labyrinthine plot like this (family in house) firmly in place, let the CGI effects flow. Murphy and the two kids wander through a dreary collection of set pieces involving ghosts, water and hidden rooms. Mom finds herself the object of Gracie's affections. Yeah, it's the old 'villain wants to marry someone else's wife' schpiel, and this time around it's especially tiresome.
Odd that the screenplay would spring from the pen of David Berenbaum, a newcomer scribe responsible for the wholly charming Will Ferrell comedy Elf. The Haunted Mansion has none of that film's off-kilter affability or confident pacing. The Haunted Mansion feels like something that was churned out through a machine; Disney Live-Action By Committee.It's truly bizarre to see that Eddie Murphy can't currently support a grown-ups movie, yet has such resounding success with stuff like Shrek and Daddy Day Care and (to a smaller degree of success) The Haunted Mansion. I realize of course that Kiddie Flix are the easy way out for formerly brilliant comedians desperate for a solid payday (see also: Robin Williams or Steve Martin), but there's no reason that the resultant films need be this uninspired and inert.