Film Length: 88 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080P High Definition
Video Codec: Mpeg-2
Subtitles: English SDH, French & Spanish
Release Date: October 17, 2006
Jim Evers (Eddie Murphy) is a true workaholic. He and his wife Sara (Marsha Thomason) run a budding real estate agency somewhere in what appears to be urban Louisiana. Jim seems to have a problem balancing making time for his family and successfully running his business. In an attempt to make up for his lack of attention to his home life, Jim promises to take the wife and kids to the lake for a weekend of family fun. But Jim just can’t resist making one last stop to meet a client on the way to the lake. Unfortunately for the whole family, this particular client lives in a creepy old mansion that’s just filled with spooks, specters and ghosts. Of course, Jim’s going to have to save the family, and hopefully learn a thing or two about being a Dad and a Husband along the way.
The Haunted Mansion really is a fun family film. There’s a lot of dry humor that is aimed at both children and adults. Double entendres abound! Eddie Murphy is in his charming, goofy mode and all the supporting players (including Terence Stamp!) are in excellent and silly form. What else can I say? This one isn’t going to win any awards, but it is fun for the whole family.
I’m really impressed with what Disney has done on this latest round of Blu-Ray releases. Again, we are given an Mpeg-2 transfer that really delivers the goods. I think anyone would be hard pressed to distinguish this transfer from the best of what VC1 and AVC has to offer. Black levels are excellent, as are shadow details. Flesh-tones are perfectly accurate and help reveal particularly exceptional details in skin and hair. Take a look at just about any medium to close up shot in the movie and you’ll see every pore, freckle and hair in the character’s face. Amazing! There’s a scene about five minutes into the film that takes place in a Tiki bar where Jim is presenting a couple with sales contract. This has to be one of the most colorful scenes I’ve yet seen on Blu-Ray. Primary colors literally leap off the screen here, creating a sensational sense of depth to the image. This is definitely a scene one should use to show off how impressive HD material can be. Despite all theses strengths, however, the video presentation does have a couple of minor problems: During the opening credits, there was some noticeable banding in the glow created by a floating candelabra. This could very well just be from some poorly rendered CGI. I also picked up some slight video noise in several backgrounds during the course of the movie. Check out the patterned wallpaper that lines most walls inside the mansion. You’ll see a slight halo of video noise dancing around the patterns and any objects mounted on the walls. Again, this is pretty minor stuff that you will probably only notice if you are on the lookout for it. I made sure to test these scenes on two different monitors to make sure that it wasn’t display specific. Yep… it was there on both. Despite these minor flaws, I’d definitely place The Haunted Mansion high up on the list of the best titles available on either HD format today.
Here’s another reference disc for you Blu-Ray enthusiasts out there. Dolby Digital 5.1 is available here, but you really need to check out the PCM 5.1 track. This is a very aggressive, fun and active mix that has an absolutely HUGE soundstage. My sub was roaring and the surround channels were almost constantly active once the action of the movie got rolling. Dialogue was perfectly presented without the slightest bit of breakup. For what is, essentially, a very silly movie, this soundtrack can really suck you in and even startle at times! I have to congratulate Disney for jumping on the PCM bandwagon and delivering an exceptional mix.
Disney has included a pretty nice set of extras here. First off, a Blu-Scape short film from director Louie Schwartzberg is included. The film is encoded in 1080P resolution and runs a total of about 5 minutes in length. There’s really not much to it, but it is a well shot scene of a graveyard and some ominous looking clouds and shadows set to eerie music. The feature is able to be looped if you want to simply let it run ad-infinitum as a background to other activities.
Next up is the “Anatomy of a Scene” featurette: This is pretty standard material concerning effects work.
There are also two commentaries included on the disc. One features director Rob Minkoff and the film’s costume designer, while the other is made up of members of the effects team. There’s a bit of overlap in the commentaries, but they are both pretty informative and entertaining.
The disc starts up with a Disney Blu-Ray preview that has scenes and cover art from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl amongst others. I wonder when Disney is going to finally announce a release date for Pirates? There’s also an anti-piracy clip. Fortunately I was able to skip through this by forwarding to the next chapter.
All in all, this is a nice set of extras. Disney should be commended for taking the time to include extra HD content.
The Final Analysis
Despite a few minor quibbles, this is an excellent transfer with reference audio and a nice set of extras. The Haunted Mansion is a fun flick that offers something for everyone in the family. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!