Dog’s Movie House: “Haunted Mansion” A Delightful Homage To The Classic Disney Ride!
“The Haunted Mansion” features Rosario Dawson as Gabbie and Chase Dillion as Travis, a mother/son combo who move into a old mansion in Louisiana in order to start their life over after a family tragedy. Unfortunately the Mansion is most definitely haunted and soon the two find themselves besieged by all manner of spooks and spectres, including a vicious one that manifests every night at midnight. Even leaving the mansion doesn’t help: the ghosts have a nasty habit of following them wherever they go.
An unorthodox priest named Father Kent (Owen Wilson, really playing into his laid back persona) decides to help and he does so by forming a team of paranormal ghost fighters, led by Ben Mattias (an excellent Lakeith Stanfield), a former scientist who is dealing with a personal tragedy of his own. The other members of the team include a medium named Harriet (Tiffany Haddish) and a college professor named Bruce (Danny DeVIto). Together the team has to solve the mystery of the hauntings in the mansion, including the presence of the malicious Hatbox Ghost (Jared Leto).
Now this all sounds like standard boilerplate haunted house fodder and you’d be right in assuming so, but Simien and writer Katie Dippold have a lot more on their minds. Intertwined in all the ghostly goings on is a fairly serious mediation on the nature of grief from losing a loved one and the process of continuing one’s life without them. Both Travis and Ben share a deeply personal loss and it’s one that not only affects them personally, but also puts them in more danger than anyone else in the house. Their journey through The Haunted Mansion mirrors their own personal journeys and for the most part both are handled with care and sensitivity.
Of course, the film is titled “The Haunted Mansion” and is based on a Disney attraction, so don’t make the mistake of thinking your attending a two-hour cinematic therapy session. Intertwined with the very real emotions is all the fun of the ride in narrative form. Dippold’s script leans even more heavily on the features of the ride than “Pirates Of The Carribbean,” but that’s not a bad thing. It’s like seeing your favorite theme park ride come to life while still retaining the essence of what you loved about the attraction in the first place. All of the classic landmarks are featured: the dueling ghosts, the dining room with the ballroom dancers, the creepy seance room (featuring a delightful Jamie Lee Curtis as the bodiless Madame Leota, the stretching room with the extending paintings. . .they’re all there but they somehow manage to serve the story. Even the dialogue and narrative feature elements of the ride (the banishing spell features lines from Paul Free’s legendary introduction at the beginning of the ride, and the Hatbox Ghost’s plan makes good use of the 999 spirits who reside in the mansion.)
The film isn’t perfect as some of the effects could have used a little more polish and not all of the jokes land and Tiffany Haddish always looks like she’s one step away of exploding into a profanity-laced diatribe (worry not; that doesn’t happen). But the performances, led by Stanfield and Dillion, a smart script and several clever nods to the ride make “The Haunted Mansion” a delight for all ages. If your young ones like the idea of ghost stories but don’t want to be too traumatized (some of the spooks are a bit frightening in the looks department), then “The Haunted Mansion” is the film for you. It’s a movie both kids and adults can enjoy! 4 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!