This is a special Halloween edition of my battle series, where I will be comparing and contrasting “The Haunted Mansi0n,” starring Eddie Murphy, and “The Muppets Haunted Mansion” special that was just added to Disney+ in 2021.
The main character of “The Haunted Mansion” is Jim Evers, a workaholic real estate agent who shows up at the mansion with his family to make a deal not realizing the ghosts that haunt the mansion want his wife to marry the ghost of the original owner because his butler killed her. That’s a confusing sentence to write, but the plot is pretty straightforward. Jim is unlikable most of the movie, but we’re supposed to be cheering for him to save his wife who he has never appreciated. That’s a hard task even at the end of the film. In “The Muppets Haunted Mansion,” Gonzo the Great has “won” the right to compete in a fear challenge at the home of his favorite magician who disappeared a century ago. Gonzo brings Pepe along and they are expected to die in the house, but Gonzo makes it through and rescues Pepe in just enough time to face his fears and get out of the house. That’s a far more interesting lead character. Point to “The Muppets Haunted Mansion.”
THE HAUNTED MANSION 0 | THE MUPPETS HAUNTED MANSION 1
“The Haunted Mansion” features a wide array of ghosts. Basically, everyone in the movie that’s not one of the Evers family is a ghost. There are some good ghosts, some bad ghosts, and some funny ghosts. Terrence Stamp does a great job as the ghost of the butler while Wallace Shawn basically plays the same character he does in every movie. The ghosts are probably the best part of “The Haunted Mansion.” In “The Muppets Haunted Mansion,” the ghosts are all played by well-known; or at least semi-well-known; celebrities. The point of the ghosts is not to advance the story, but to let you see who they got for a cameo. It’s a staple of Muppets movies and specials. It’s a lot of fun, but it doesn’t do much. I’m giving this point to “The Haunted Mansion.”
THE HAUNTED MANSION 1 | THE MUPPETS HAUNTED MANSION 1
3. THE SINGING BUSTS
The singing busts in both of these versions of “The Haunted Mansion” is a throwback to the ride itself. They are wonderfully done in both versions. In “The Haunted Mansions,” the Dapper Dans; a barbershop quartet that performs at Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, and Hong Kong Disneyland; performed the voices of the busts for the movie. Meanwhile, in “The Muppets Haunted Mansion,” five celebrities took on the roles of the singing busts. While it was cool to see Craig Robinson and Pat Sajak perform as busts, they don’t compare to the Dapper Dans. Point to “The Haunted Mansion.”
THE HAUNTED MANSION 2 | THE MUPPETS HAUNTED MANSION 1
4. THE BRIDE
In “The Haunted Mansion,” Ramsey wants the spirit of Elizabeth to inhabit Sara Evers’ body so she can marry Master Gracely and all of the ghosts can be at peace. It’s a weird plot. In “The Muppets Haunted Mansion,” Taraji P. Henson serves as the bride, a woman who constantly marries the people who enter the mansion and then kills them making them ghosts that haunt the manor. It’s also a weird plot. But, I think the Muppets version is better told. Point to “The Muppets Haunted Mansion.”
THE HAUNTED MANSION 2 | THE MUPPETS HAUNTED MANSION 2
5. MADAME LEOTA
Any good “Haunted Mansion” adaptation needs a Madame Leota. Any bad “Haunted Mansion” adaptation needs a Madame Leota. She’s a staple of the attraction and has to be involved. Jennifer Tilly does an admirable job as Madame Leota in “The Haunted Mansion.” But, I much prefer Miss Piggy’s version in “The Muppets Haunted Mansion.” Point to “The Muppets Haunted Mansion.”
THE HAUNTED MANSION 2 | THE MUPPETS HAUNTED MANSION 3
6. RIDE NOSTALGIA
The purpose of a movie based on a Disney attraction is for it to tell its own story, but make you think about the ride. “The Haunted Mansion” only makes me think about the ride when you see Madame Leota, the singing busts, and some of the ghosts. In “The Muppets Haunted Mansion,” Gonzo and Pepe basically take the viewer through the ride. It’s not in the same order as the ride, but it’s the ride. It kind of tells its own story by putting the rooms in a different order, but it falters in that department. That being said, I can’t watch this and not think about the ride. Point to “The Muppets Haunted Mansion.”
THE HAUNTED MANSION 2 | THE MUPPETS HAUNTED MANSION 4
“The Muppets Haunted Mansion” wins this battle. From a personal standpoint, I really loved “The Muppets Haunted Mansion” while not really liking “The Haunted Mansion.” However, looking back at both from this viewpoint makes me appreciate “The Haunted Mansion” more than I did. Maybe I’ll enjoy it more if I watch it again.
But, I’m going to toss it over to you. Which do you think is better?