Disney’s first ‘Haunted Mansion’ movie was OK, but there’s room for one more

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Haunted Mansion Madame LeotaSo. Last night I dusted off my kids’ seldom watched DVD of The Haunted Mansion, Disney’s 2003 critical flop based on the beloved theme park attraction. I had never watched it.

While I wasn’t by any means impressed, neither was I repulsed. To put it another way, it consistently did not suck … completely. But I can understand why Guillermo del Toro is remaking it already: Eddie Murphy — who del Toro emphatically said would not be invited back — was entertaining enough, but the whole problem with the movie was it tried too hard to be funny.

“We are not making it a comedy,” del Toro said during the film’s announcement Thursday at San Diego Comic-Con. “We are making it scary and fun, but the scary will be scary. … If you take the children, they will scream.”

The family friendly comedy romp of 2003 bizarrely ignores the ride’s rich history and more intriguing aspects.

So, what, you might say, did the first attempt have going in its favor?

The supporting cast was pretty good: Terence Stamp (Zod in Superman II), Nathaniel Parker (the titular detective in The Inspector Lynley Mysteries), Wallace Shawn (Vizzini in The Princess Bride, Grand Nagus Zek in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Jennifer Tilly as Madame Leota.

The real crime, though, is that Shawn didn’t get much screen time, and Tilly has a fun role but is horrifically miscast as the gypsy medium trapped in a crystal ball. She’s just not dry enough, and her rhymes are increasingly ridiculous and too obvious at the same time.

No, it pain me to say this in the remake-happy 21st century, but a proper movie about Disney’s 999 happy haunts is long overdue. And I’m dying to see it.

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