Disney’s Haunted Mansion: Film Review

Haunted Mansion

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Welcome Foolish Mortals, as we venture into the boundless realm of the supernatural through Walt Disney Studios’ latest release, Haunted Mansion… and for those wondering if the new film is worthy of a trip to the theater, there’s no turning back now! Haunted Mansion is a frightfully fun chill ride, encompassing the excitement and hilariously scary elements of the iconic Disney Parks attraction, all the while giving us a tour of some new surprises the eerie manor has in store for us.

This new take on the classic attraction definitely turns heads, setting itself apart from its predecessor by leaning into the secret ingredients that have helped make the original ride so beloved by fans the world over. It all comes down to the basic combination of scares and humor, opening the gates and welcoming visitors of all ages to enjoy and participate together while not overwhelming and pushing the film too far into either genre; following the footsteps of another iconic Disney attraction-themed film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.

Haunted Mansion

At the time of its release, Curse of the Black Pearl was a huge gamble with moviegoers. Would fans accept a feature-length film based on a 12-minute attraction story? What purpose would it serve, and would it be enough to win big at the box office? Curse of the Black Pearl was unique in the sense that it found a perfect mix of wit through the use of Jack Sparrow while weaving the terrifying tale of undead pirates trying to recapture their humanity. It was an instant smash and still a fan favorite twenty years later.

Thanks to that success, whether you like it or not, The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise paved the way for a multitude of live-action products, remakes, and reboots, both largely successful and some near misses, with the original Haunted Mansion adaptation being a great example.

Eddie Murphy’s travels into the supernatural didn’t resonate with audiences the same way, and for years, it’s been clear that Disney has been wanting to hit the reset button. What we are left with is a ghoulishly delightful tale that’s just as fun as the original haunted halls of the Disneyland attraction, finding the right moments of fright and fun that ultimately make you want to check the wait times and hope Haunted Mansion is a 13-minute wait.

What really makes this film flourish is its ensemble cast, who all brilliantly complement each other in the most hilarious and genuine way possible. Though we do get known Haunted Mansion characters like Constance Hathaway, Madame Leotta, and The Grim Grinning Ghosts, the focus of the film isn’t as much on the attraction or self-referenced Easter eggs for the ride, but instead on a new group of wayward mortals who find themselves in for a ghostly adventure, unlike anything they’ve ever encountered.

Haunted Mansion

The narrative focuses on LaKeith Stanfield, played by Sorry to Bother You‘s Ben Matthias, a former astrophysicist who gets wrapped in the supernatural through a new and budding relationship that takes hold when he visits New Orleans. He is joined by Ahsoka star, Rosario Dawson as Gabbie, her son Travis played by Chase Dillon, and the legendary Loki and Cars star Owen Wilson as the haphazard parish minister, Father Kent. Kent and Stanfield are recruited by Gabbie to help investigate the mansion, finding themselves in over their heads and in desperate need of help as they work together to uncover the truth behind the mysteries surrounding the mansion and the hauntings that follow.

The help they find comes in the form of another superstar talent, including Hercules alum, Danny DeVito as professor Bruce Davis, a stubborn historian who dives into the face of danger despite the risks of a heart condition that is soon to be treated as well as the quick-witted medium Harriet, played by Girls Trip‘s very own Tiffany Haddish. Together, the group is a recipe for comedic gold, crafting a very memorable performance that will leave the crowd roaring with laughter.

Their ghostly counterparts for this film also leave their mark, lead by Halloween Queen, Jamie Lee Curtis as the world-famous Madame Leota, and House of Gucci star, Jared Leto as the Disneyland favorite, Hatbox Ghost. Leto, who is known for his method of acting and deep devotion to his character roles, delivers a terrifying and engaging performance while Curtis brings her spooky skills to the table in the best way possible. Our only wish is that Curtis had a larger presence in the film, along with a bit more time with the rest of our 999 happy haunts.

Haunted Mansion

That being said, there are still plenty of nods to both the original Disney Parks attraction lore, as well as references playing homage to the Halloween season itself, with one of its biggest coming from a fun cameo featuring the one and only, Winona Rider. All of these elements give way to serve a greater purpose, crafting a narrative that brings our main ensemble to the center.

Though our mansion inhabitants don’t serve as prominent a role as desired, they still serve plenty of fun and handle the legacy of The Haunted Mansion with plenty of ghoulish grace and charm. The end result is a grab bag of hi-jinks and some surprisingly deep and emotional moments that really tie in the power of community and overcoming grief.

Disney’s Haunted Mansion is definitely worth a visit, and one that will quickly serve as a touching tribute to the formula that has made the many iterations of the attraction around the world a year around staple for an endless number of souls both with us and dearly departed.

**Writers Note- This review is in accordance with the rules set by SAG-AFTRA and is not written with the intent of promotion of Walt Disney Pictures. You can learn more by visiting SAG-AFTRA’s official site, or by visiting the WGA’s website. I fully support the writers, actors, and creators who help bring these stories to life. Thank you! 

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