Haunted Mansion Review: Disney’s Ghostly Ride Never Springs To Life
Buckle up for a bumpy ride through Disney’s latest grave-digging venture, the 2023 reboot of “The Haunted Mansion.” More reminiscent of a stalled theme park ride than a cinematic masterpiece, this film seems to have lost its way en route to the silver screen. It’s like a Coney Island funhouse with a $155 million price tag.
Our hapless protagonist, Ben Matthias, played by LaKeith Stanfield, is a mourning young widower who dabbles in theoretical physics when he isn’t leading historical walking tours through the captivating streets of New Orleans. Stanfield, though a talent to be reckoned with, seems to be sleepwalking through this film, his usually vibrant performances reduced to a dull shadow.
Stanfield’s Ben, armed with his ghost-detecting camera, is roped into a spectral shenanigan by a quirky priest (Owen Wilson in his trademark lopsided grin), a gritty mother (Rosario Dawson), and her son (Chase W. Dillon). The young Dillon might just be the silver lining of this spooky cloud, pulling off a surprisingly heartfelt performance amidst the chaos.
Joining our troupe midway are the eccentric medium (Tiffany Haddish) and a curmudgeonly professor (Danny DeVito). But alas! Their comedic prowess is washed out by weak writing and stilted dialogue. Oh, and let’s not forget about Jared Leto, tucked behind a CG mask as the notorious Hatbox Ghost. It’s more trick than treat, with Leto’s usual intensity suffocated by a surplus of computer-generated spectacles.
Director Justin Simien’s “Dear White People” was a poignant sociopolitical statement that held its ground. But here, his directorial flair seems to have taken a detour, swallowed up by the vortex of Disney’s brand preservation. His Haunted Mansion has all the quirks of a knock-off, with plasticky CGI and muddled, murky settings.
This Haunted Mansion is no haunted delight. It is overlong and suffers from an identity crisis, flitting between being a thrill ride for kids and a cerebral horror movie for adults. I appreciate the daring, but it just doesn’t gel. To top it all off, the entire thing just felt emotionally hollow. For a film centered around spirits and dealing with loss, I felt surprisingly untouched by the emotions portrayed on screen.
In the end, Disney’s latest spin on “The Haunted Mansion” feels like a haunted house assembled in the dark. For a studio known for weaving magic, this one lacks the enchantment and thrill you’d expect. Instead of an exhilarating roller coaster, we get a dreary carousel that’s lost its charm.
RATING: 2.0 out of 5
Haunted Mansion is in theaters now.