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“Haunted Mansion” – I Didn’t Expect Much and Got the Fun I Expected

Disney's "Haunted Mansion" poster

At a Theater Near You — I’m not sure why it was released a month before October, but I needed a distraction at the moment, and so Disney’s “Haunted Mansion” was the best option for me in early September.

Like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” it’s a live-action movie based on one of their theme park rides. Like “Pirates,” Disney is probably hoping to produce sequels. But unlike Pirates, it didn’t quite satisfy me or find a good balance as escapist fantasy grounded in enough reality to suspend enough belief.

Guillermo del Toro was planned to direct, and he would have given it a darker tone and probably more cohesion. But I knew this would be what I call “dumb fun,” and it was moderately successful at that. It’s a decent family movie for a matinee price.

The storyline has a variety of misfit characters drawn into a huge Louisiana house to solve the mystery and peskiness of way too many ghosts.

For a post-Pirates movie, there is a disappointing lack of spectacular, or subtle but dramatic, special effects – it’s like Disney didn’t want to risk too much for this movieā€¦or maybe they wanted to replicate the 1969 tech of the amusement park. The teases in the trailer about the Doctor-Strange-like architectural convulsions of the haunted mansion are few and too brief.

I have seen only snippets of the original 2003 movie adaptation with Eddie Murphy, but the consensus is that this “Haunted Mansion” is a complete reboot.

LaKeith Stanfield (Lieutenant Elliott of “Knives Out”) does a decent job as a jaded tour guide with his own ghosts, and Rosario Dawson (Ahsoka) plays the mansion-owning mom who tries to keep a level head.

Jared Leto is unrecognizable as the head (or headless) ghost, whose voice is clearly overacted by another actor. Jamie Lee Curtis is also mostly unrecognizable as a secondary character. And the young son reminds me of Gary Coleman – he acts a bit older than he looks, and far older than his age in the movie.

And Owen Wilson REALLY needs to get that aging nose fixed! It’s haunting.

My rating: 666 ghosts out of 999.