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'Muppets Haunted Mansion' deserves to be ghosted

Gonzo and Pepe the King Prawn in "The Muppets Haunted Mansion." Photo courtesy Disney.
Posted at 12:41 PM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 12:08:23-04

There is a scene in "Muppets Haunted Mansion" — as there is in many Muppets movies — in which Fozzie Bear tells awful jokes and gets things thrown at him by a disgusted audience.

The movie itself bombs in a similarly heinous manner. And like Fozzie, it's proudly oblivious in its determination to go on.

The 49-minute comedy, which debuts on Disney+ Friday, is barely long enough to be considered a movie. And somehow still way too long. It's a simplistic and half-hearted way to generate fresh content to satisfy the unrelenting hunger of subscribers. In its ramshackle manner of cramming two beloved brands together, it manages to tarnish them both.

The title says it all. This is the Muppets at the Haunted Mansion, for no discernible reason. The flimsy premise has Gonzo agreeing to spend the night in the spooky house to win a contest and boost his online credibility.

As social media challenges go, this one is right up there with Tide Pods.

The only value here is for extreme fans of the Disney ride. References and fan service abound, almost to the point of absurdity. The plotline roughly follows that of the 9-minute attraction, which warps your cherished memories of The Haunted Mansion, with a script filled with awful puns and eye-rolling sight gags.

Will Arnett, Ed Asner, Danny Trejo, John Stamos and Taraji P. Henson all pop up, no doubt to fulfill loose ends in Disney contracts. Too bad for them that a costume stipulation for paper bags over heads wasn't also written in.

Director Kirk Thatcher, who directed the 2002 Muppet TV movie "It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie" and has had a hand in some others, should have known the material well enough to squeeze something — anything — of value from the ill-advised project.

The Muppets can be amusing enough on their own to make nearly anything watchable for 49 minutes. It took some doing to make a film this short this boring, and if it's not nominated for Razzies it will only be because it's too slim to qualify for consideration.

Poorly-made horror movies often wind up as comedies. This is a poorly-made comedy that becomes a horror movie. It crashes and burns in a way that Fozzie could appreciate.

RATING: 1 star out of 4.
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