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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Justin Simien
scr Katie Dippold
prd Jonathan Eirich, Dan Lin
with LaKeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Chase W Dillon, Danny DeVito, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jared Leto, Charity Jordan, JR Adduci, Daniel Levy, Winona Ryder
release US 28.Jul.23,
23/US Disney 2h03
Is it streaming?
An intriguing horror comedy is lurking deep inside this bloated, over-digitised mess, with the only remaining signs being the adept cast and a few witty sight gags. Otherwise, it's neither funny nor scary, and only undemanding moviegoers will enjoy it, or perhaps fans of Disney's theme-park ride, which is visually referenced everywhere. Anyone looking for something clever will need to ask director Justin Simien what went wrong.
In New Orleans, Gabbie (Dawson) and her 9-year-old son Travis (Dillon) move into an abandoned plantation house they hope to turn into a bed and breakfast. But they're instantly haunted by spirits living there, as is Father Kent (Wilson), the priest they hire to exorcise them. So they turn to scientist Ben (Stanfield), who has invented a camera that can capture spirits. Now crawling in ghosts, these four are joined by psychic Harriet (Haddish) and professor Bruce (DeVito) as they set out to track down the nasty spirit (Leto) who is imprisoning the deceased here.
Attempting to layer in feelings of grief, Dippold's script starts out promisingly enough with several nicely played set-up scenes, including a retracing of how Ben is struggling to cope after the loss of his wife (Jordan). Gabbie and Travis add interest to this, and there's more to their story revealed later. But along the way the plot grows into a monster, introducing more spirits and complications as it spirals into a hideously ugly climax so breathtakingly inane that it makes us feel queasy.
Through all of this, the actors keep playing characters they clearly think have some depth to them while diving physically into the mayhem. Even more comical roles like Haddish's medium, Owen's priest and DeVito's expert hint at something more beneath the surface. But none of this gets a chance to emerge, with ideas of mourning and loss brushed away as simplistic plot points. Some spirits, including Curtis' imprisoned soothsayer and the unrecognisable Leto's villainous monster, have possibilities too, but never get a chance to develop.
Frankly, this looks like Simien and Dippold made a movie that was too smart for both focus groups and Disney executives, so they reworked the material in an attempt to please everyone but cast and crew. Which of course results in a movie that pleases no one. What remains is mindless enough to offer random moments of amusing escapism, which may be enough for some audiences. If the filmmakers could have maintained a point of view, this might have been good fun.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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