For a brief shining moment, Disney was back.
Albeit, nobody noticed and they quickly shuffled themselves back to their shelter of recycled content and their never-ending quest to appeal to “Modern Audiences”. Nonetheless, they were back and Haunted Mansion is proof that the House Of Mouse hasn’t checked out completely.
Arriving just in time for Halloween, Haunted Mansion has arrived on Disney Plus and I was excited to be able to sit down and watch it. I did not expect this movie to be as good as it was. I expected a run of the mill Disney film that we would watch every Halloween season. What I received was a fun experience that provided an adequate amount of fan service.
Without further ado, I will dive head first into this and give you the good, the bad, and the ugly of Disney’s Haunted Mansion.
I’ll start off with the casting. Haunted Mansion provides the audience with a great ensemble cast. LaKeith Stanfield gives us a lot of emotion in the lead role as Ben Mathias; a depressed widower who believes his wife died thinking he didn’t love her. Rosario Dawson as always brings life to the female lead, Gabbie. She is a single mother who has moved into the mansion in question.
The cast is rounded out by
- Owen Wilson as an unconventional priest.
- Tiffany Haddish as a delightfully funny psychic.
- Danny Devito as a college historian obsessed with the history of the mansion.
- Jamie Lee Curtis as Madame Leota, the psychic responsible for releasing the ghosts.
- Chase W. Dillon as Gabbie’s son, who steals the show with an unexpectedly deep, earnest portrayal of his character.
Rounding out the cast is a great use of cameo appearances from Wynona Ryder, Daniel Levy, Steve Zissis, Marilou Henner, Jo Koy, Hasan Minhaj and Jared Leto.
You read that correctly. Jared Leto appeared in a movie, and I still enjoyed it.
The storytelling was thoughtful and somewhat philosophical considering that this is a movie based on a Disney theme park attraction. It gets into the fears of what may happen after you die in a child friendly manner. That’s a tricky thing to do.
Director Justin Simien provides a fast pace for the movie that still manages to give the audience a smooth ride. Given that some of Simien’s content tends to be politically charged, half of me was expecting another Disney soap box expo. It was refreshing to see a director put the politics away for a minute and just make a movie for the fun of it.
The VFX and CGI were amazing. Whoever was in charge of The Flash over at Warner Brothers should watch this movie and take notes. There was great contrast between the effects in the two movies despite this one having roughly $50-$70 million less for the budget. They managed to make the movie both dark and vivid at the same time. It made me feel like I was missing out not seeing this on the big screen.
There aren’t many bad things to say about the movie. I will say that the story didn’t line up at times and there were a few minor plot holes, but that is to be expected in a lighthearted horror comedy.
Jamie Lee Curtis and Danny Devito’s characters were underused. They were both characters with an encyclopedic knowledge of the mansion. I would have liked more of a backstory. We could have learned more about the ghosts and this could have fleshed the plot out a little more to my liking.
I also think the movie lacked star power. This is a very good cast with very talented actors, but there was no real star cast to ensure box office success. The two biggest stars in the film were Jamie Lee Curtis and Wynona Ryder. Ryder was in an uncredited cameo, and Curtis had less than six minutes of screen time.
They just needed that one actor/actress that would have been a draw.
The ugly aspects of this movie don’t have anything to do with the movie itself. It has to do with Disney’s Achilles heel. The marketing was dreadful. The trailer didn’t do the movie justice. To be fair, Disney had to work really hard to screw up the marketing on this when they could have just let the WGA/SAG-AFTRA strike do that for them.
Disney did in fact still find a way to drop the ball though. The premiere of the film was comical. With stars and writers restricted from attending, Disney resorted to having the mascots and cast members from their theme parks appear in costume to take their place.
Disney could have approached the situation so many other ways. Simien, who was not on strike could have done more interviews and promos. They could have auctioned the tickets off for charity.
To be fair, the movie was doomed from the start, regardless of Disney’s marketing approach. It was a packed (and strange) year at the box office. The movie was released one week after the Barbenheimer phenomenon. Both of those movies are cultural juggernauts and remain in theaters. They obliterated the competition.
Logic would tell you to move the film into spooky season. It would have probably done better, but not by much. Haunted Mansion would still have to go up against a slew of other major releases including a sequel to The Paw Patrol Movie that has already tripled its budget, the long awaited Saw X and a reboot of The Exorcist.
Unfortunately, Haunted Mansion was a man without a country at the box office.
What The Geek Faithful Says
Our own Jonathan Hile, the host of the Captain’s Logs and Lightsabers podcast said: “For fans of the ride, there’s lots to love about the references “peppered” throughout. I thought the movie was pretty meh as a whole, though.”
GNN Greats Member Dan Fischer had this to say: “It’s fair. Not great cinema, but who would expect that? The supporting cast is solid (DeVito in particular), and the cameos are terrific (Ryder, in particular) but the principles are only so-so, including Ahsoka herself. Predictable and trite, but a decent family movie.”
Brian Fibel, also a member of the GNN Greats had a less than enthusiastic take: “Bad movie, but memberberry [sic] references. Baically [sic] its [sic] like most movies based on some pre existing[sic] like Ghostbusters afterlife [sic], Ahsoka, etc.[sic]”
So, not everyone agrees with my assessment of the film. Nonetheless, Geek News Now is fueled by the fans and we remain committed to ensuring that they have a voice. If you want your voice to be heard and possibly featured in an article, join the GNN Greats page today.
Even though this movie did not do well financially, I still think that this is Disney at its finest. The company used to take risks like this and strive to give us fresh, and original ideas. They didn’t use their existing properties as a crutch, and constantly kneel at the Altar of “The Modern Audience.”
It was also great to actually escape from what is going on outside my door in the real world. My family and I were actually able to sit down and enjoy a fun movie without being reminded about how bad the world is every fifteen minutes. That’s a real big ask these days.
If you’re looking for a fun, lighthearted movie with a great cast that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then check out Haunted Mansion on Disney Plus.
Thank You for reading! When I am not writing I enjoy spending time with my wife Barbara, my three year old daughter Frances, and my loyal hound Marbles. For more hot takes, follow me here and on our brand new YouTube channel. You can also check out more of my content on my author’s page.
Stay Geeky Everybody!