Muppets Haunted Mansion Has A Really Solid Idea
Muppets Haunted Mansion is an obvious crossover. With Disney owning the rights to the characters, it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. The Muppets are also not strangers to slightly darker content and blend well with the aesthetic of spooky locations.
And aesthetics is the biggest reason to watch this movie. Since I reviewed The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, I’ve been routinely impressed by how good puppetry can look on a screen. Muppets Haunted Mansion uses this alongside CGI to make for some fantastic tableaus. The mansion contains creepy pictures, delightful architecture, monster and ghost Muppets, and morbid details.
This Movie Nails That Particular Halloween Energy
The second most prominent reason to watch it is, naturally, The Muppets. It’s a lot of fun to see Kermit as a malevolent ghost or Fozzie in his zombie-esque attire. There’s an incredibly charming musical number with catchy (and surprisingly threatening) lyrics. It also showcases a wild number of puppets on screen, even referencing the original Muppets Show’s bonkers scale. It’s by far the highlight of the special.
Muppets Haunted Mansion isn’t all great, however. For such a short special, it drags in a few places—while too sped up in others. Gonzo is apparently our main character, but he gets such a short arc that only exists when the plot wants something more than Halloween shenanigans.
This Framing Device Is Vague For How They Use It
The biggest issue, though, is Pepe. For one, he’s a stereotype. And, for two, he derails and dilutes the pacing. The movie ostensibly ends, then backpedals to wrap up his murderous fiancé subplot. It’s a plot detail in step with the original Haunted Mansion ride, but it takes over Muppets Haunted Mansion in the worst way. It’s always uncomfortable seeing Muppets flirt with human people or vice versa, and it’s only by Taraji P. Henson’s absolute commitment to the bit (and solid performance overall) that it’s even watchable. We thankfully get some reprieves with the dead husband peanut gallery, a sarcastic priest, and Gonzo running through the mansion, but it’s still an awkward, not particularly funny tangent.
None of this was necessary, either. There didn’t need to be a cohesive plot. Simply a trip through the mansion’s highlights with more songs, more Will Arnett being spooky, and Muppets playing various ghosts would’ve nailed the charm. There’s outdated and problematic stuff in The Muppets’ history that could use an update, but the core appeal is still there. Even with everything I’ve said, the fourth wall breaks, lively puppetry, and masterful atmosphere made me smile and laugh a few times. It would be on my list of ideal family-friendly media for Halloween if only it did a few more things right.
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