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Movie Review: Haunted Mansion (2023)

All the thumbs up.


We saw Disney's new Haunted Mansion this past- opening- weekend. I'm bummed it's not doing better than it is, because we all LOVED it.


I mean- Jamie Lee Curtis, Danny Devito, Lakeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Jared Leto...it's got all the starz!!


Also, it's just a great right blend of funny, scary, and sweet. It makes sense- the team responsible for it has done some hilarious and thought-provoking work in the past- writer Katie Dippold (The Heat, Parks and Recreation and Ghostbusters (2016)) and director Justin Simien (Dear White People).


We all left talking about how much more emotionally sophisticated kids' movies have become. There's a real meditation on grief in this movie that works, even among the silly gags and jump scares. It's also set in and near New Orleans, which is a fantastic choice for atmosphere for a ghost story.


It helps that the main character is played by Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You, Knives Out, Selma, Judas and the Black Messiah, Atlanta) who is always, always phenomenal. So natural, real, and interesting to watch. He carries the movie easily, the perfect straight man to the broader, more circusy performances, and delivers proper gut punches about death and loss that somehow don't feel out of place in a film where there's a head in a crystal ball. I would watch him in anything.


Everyone else is effective and funny- I especially like Tiffany Haddish (and her makeup!) as the medium- but the other standout performance to me is Chase Dillon, who plays Rosario Dawson's son and is the only child stuck in this mad, haunted house. He's SO funny and also completely effective in the emotional scenes. I'm eager to see what else he does.


Anyway, not sure why the movie isn't selling better. I've seen some critisism that people expect a silly, funy romp (for a movie about a ride at Disney, I can see why they feel this way), but I liked that it looked for deeper meaning- I mean, ghost stories are still about death, you know? So having the humans reckon with that makes sense to me (remember how sad Casper (1995) was??).


Perhaps it would have done better if dropped closer to Halloween- there's speculation they did it like this so they can put it out on Disney+ in the fall- but I'm hoping that word of mouth gets people interested. I loved it and will watch it again and again AND it totally makes me want to book a ghost-hunting tour to NOLA!

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