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Some people just don't know when to quit, and Jim Evers (Eddie Murphy) of Evers and Evers Realty is one of those people. Eager and outgoing, he loves his work and wants the best for his children, Michael (Marc John Jefferies) and Megan (Aree Davis), even if it comes at a price.
After succumbing to the unexpected chance to sell another house and missing their anniversary dinner, Jim timidly comes home to make amends with his wife Sara (Marsha Thomason). But it is going to take more than an expensive gift, pleading eyes and a cuddly teddy bear to earn her forgiveness. Trying to change his ways, he promises the family an uninterrupted weekend at the lake after they make one small detour to view an aging, gated home that is going on the market.
However, the owner of the once-grand southern Louisiana estate Master Gracey (Nathaniel Parker), and his pallid but efficient butler have other plans for the group. Trapped by a violent thunderstorm, the Evers family is tucked in for an overnight stay in the dusty, eerie mansion by the ashen Ramsley (Terrence Stamp).
It is soon evident to everyone that it's not just the hosts who have a deadly pallor. The ghosts in the backyard cemetery also seem unaccustomed to staying entombed. Creepy noises and strange sightings soon have the whole family sneaking out of their covers and down dark corridors to try and unearth the sinister mystery of The Haunted Mansion.
While the promotional trailers for the film seem to imply there will be plenty of laughs, viewers may be disappointed to discover they've already seen nearly every guffaw this film has to offer before even taking their seats. Wobbling between comedic one-liners from Murphy and intense scenes with grappling, grotesque zombies, the movie has a hard time deciding to which audience it wants to appeal.
Although profanities are fairly rare, a swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated shows up in the bedroom of a 10-year-old boy, as does a large decanter of spirits (and not the ghostly kind). A suicide by hanging, repeated poisonings, swordplay and the brusque disposal of a man through a second floor window all add up on the list of possible parental concerns.
Like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and the more benign Country Bears, this film is based on a Disney theme park attraction--seemingly slim pickings on which to base an entire storyboard. Yet after spending big bucks to watch Jim frantically rush through yet another cobwebbed doorway and endless hall at a jolting, erratic pace, you just might feel like you have been taken for a ride.
The Haunted Mansion is rated PG: for frightening images, thematic elements and language.
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp