At the Disney parks, there is a list of attractions you really should visit like “It’s a Small World” and “Space Mountain,” but for the case of discussion here is The Haunted Mansion. (Side note: I will always have a love for the version at Disneyland in Anaheim, California because I have a great uncle who produced one of the major props on that version of the attraction.) For the second time in twenty years, Disney has made a feature film of this dark ride, taking the first word off of it and simply calling it Haunted Mansion.
Directed by Justin Simien (Dear White People), Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son Travis (Chase Dillon) have moved into a new home in New Orleans trying to get a fresh start at life, and upon their arrival they realize the house is haunted. Trying to get rid of them, Gabbie calls Father Kent (Owen Wilson), psychic Harriet (Haddish), college history professor Bruce Davis (Danny DeVito) and a scientist-turned-walking-tour-guide Ben Matthias (LaKeith Stanfield) to find out what it will take to get things back to normal. The problem is that the spirits they are up against may be more than they can handle.
I loved this cast! The mix of different styles of actors and characters has good chemistry with the standout here being Dillon as a young man dealing with not only the craziness of their new home but also the craziness of growing up and starting over in a new city. Even though the majority of this film takes place in Gracie Mansion, whether it is there or in other places, the visuals and effects here are top-notch to bring this story alive. At just over two hours, the story is told well and did not drag at all.
Disney has tried other films based on their attractions, but in the example of Pirates of the Caribbean, they kept going and going, losing the focus of the story of the ride itself. With Haunted Mansion, I really liked how elements of the attraction itself is put both front-and-center and in the background right where they should be. Moments like the dining room, the moving hallway pictures, and the floating candelabras really kept me engaged in tandem with the rest of the visuals both practical and CGI. Haunted Mansion really works well, so go check it out!