When a horror comedy is neither scary nor funny, there's very little left to enjoy. Despite a talented cast, Haunted Mansion is one of the biggest duds of the year.
LaKeith Stanfield is woefully miscast as Ben, a former scientist whose belief in the paranormal ended when his wife passed away. Still, he's called on by a priest (Owen Wilson) to help clear out the ghosts who have taken up residence in the home of Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son Travis (Chase W. Dillon). He's skeptical of course, but soon enough he's followed by spirits and determined to get rid of them. With so many unwelcome guests, he enlists the help of a psychic (Tiffany Haddish), a professor (Danny DeVito) and even a medium (Jamie Lee Curtis). They all soon realize there's a larger threat: the evil specter of the Hatbox Ghost (Jared Leto).
Even for a movie based on a theme park ride, there was plenty of potential here. Yet every decision made seems to have been the cheapest, easiest and least creative. The film tries to pass off its New Orleans bonafides early on, but almost everything was filmed in the same Atlanta warehouses Disney makes the MCU. The production designer could have had some clever fun with the house's living paintings, crooked hallways and trap doors. But almost all the special effects are done with unimaginative green screen. Even the cinematography is lifeless. And this before we get into the endless product placement, which includes references to CVS and Baskin-Robbins, plus an entire scene where some of the cast eats Burger King, only to point out they don't even serve the one food item with special meaning for Ben.
There's no telling how much studio interference is to blame for the film's failure, though the last act, in particular, feels rushed and reshot. Cameos from Winona Ryder and Dan Levy (the latter giving an especially bad performance) are pointless. And writer Katie Dippold pivots hard into sentimentality towards the end. But that doesn't make up for the film's lack of humor and thrills, and the tears it's going for feel unearned. It also stretches out what should be a fun summer flick to near two hours. But hey, at least the costumes are great.
With weak characters and little excitement, Haunted Mansion is too rickety to enjoy, especially in a summer with so many proper thrill rides.