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Haunted Mansion movie review & film summary (2023)

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Haunted Mansion movie review & film summary (2023)

“Haunted Mansion” is star-studded but shoddy at best. Despite the talent of writer Katie Dippold (“The Heat” “Parks and Recreation”), the script’s punchlines are forced and flat. Everyone is doled their share of one-liners, but Wilson and Haddish carry most of the weight. While Wilson often runs dry, Haddish delivers in her classic tone and cadence, executing flimsy jokes to her best ability. The script does toe the line of Disney’s boundaries, tossing in some light innuendos in a somewhat concerted effort to draw in more mature audiences.

Simien’s film does display its fun-loving origins in how the house can transform into a surrealist landscape. Halls that never end, ceilings that extend into impossibility, gargoyles, hidden rooms, and the ever-so-classic ghost-inhabited portraits recall nostalgia for the film’s classic Gothicism. “Haunted Mansion” boasts a handful of playful chases and spooky sequences, but they’re fleeting and soon bring us back to the film’s stuttering pace. It’s hard to find any true tension in “Haunted Mansion” until the climactic faceoff in the third act. 

Perhaps the greatest letdown of Simien’s movie is how little the cast delivers. The ensemble is brimming with lively, prolific candidates, yet the script hardly seems to keep this in mind. Their talents are either underused or misdirected. Stanfield’s Ben mourns the loss of his wife, his grief becoming a cornerstone of the story. Yet while we’ve seen Stanfield display emotional depth in other roles, every tearful moment feels like a soap opera, not on account of sentiment, but performance. There’s a sense of watered-down contrivance across the board. The forced, postured will-they won’t-they romance between Stanfield and Dawson showcases this also. And with seasoned comedic actors in Wilson, DeVito, and Haddish, too few of their comedy efforts actually hit. 

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