Muppets Haunted Mansion is the pun-filled delight that gives the entire time. Where a ghostly film should probably take, Disney’s latest release pays homage to theme park ride as ridiculously well as Jungle Cruise does. While the Haunted Mansion film which released in 2003 isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I’m still a fan of what the film tries to accomplish.
But the Muppets Haunted Mansion simply delights through inside jokes left and right that are somehow even funnier because they’re explained. You’d get it anyway, but the simplified notes work. And it’s so ridiculous that I actually laughed out loud during the “stay seated in your doom buggies” bit because for starters, I always get stuck on the ride at Disneyland. If you know, you know.
And don’t even get me started on “the critics’ circle” joke. We could talk in great length about that one line alone. The guest starring roles by Taraji P. Henson as The Bride, Yvette Nicole Brown as The Hearse Driver, Will Arnett as The Ghost Host, and Darren Criss as The Caretaker were pitch perfect choices. And there are certainly more recognizable faces than the four of them as we follow Gonzo and Pepe the Prawn through a night of happy haunts.
The thing with a film like Muppets Haunted Mansion and similarly, Jungle Cruise is if you go into them expecting pure, ridiculous, pun-filled jokes, you’re going to come out at the end extremely satisfied. Disney’s original films, the Halloween specials especially aren’t meant to be some profound pieces of fiction—instead, they’re a ridiculous feast for the eyes while touching on nostalgia without as much desolation the feeling is often laced with. (The Muppet Christmas Carol however, is absolutely a masterpiece and I will indeed fight for that movie through and through—the best retelling of Dickens’ classic. Period)
But that’s far from the point here, the point is, Muppets Haunted Mansion can be an absolute thrill ride if you allow it to be and that’s certainly the case if you already adore the ridiculous theme park ride. Which fun fact, the scariest part of the ride (and I mean genuinely scary for me personally, I cannot look at the animatronic bride at the end) is when she sings “hurry back.” So on a personal note, I love that though we know the darkest part of the ride’s history, Henson’s version of The Bride is both bizarre considering, you know, the prawn, and yet thankfully not as terrifying. And thus, I personally prefer it more.
The overt acknowledgement of the jokes, breaking the fourth wall, and continuously harping on just how ridiculous the ride really is was my ghoulish jam. The explanations provided by The Ghost Host have similar vibes to Boy Meets World’s “And Then There Was Shawn” episode—an astute fan favorite when it comes to spooky specials.
Finally, while the film can be an absolute joy ride through and through because of the puns, it isn’t without a thought-provoking theme that is tied directly to concept of fear and what it truly means for us all. It poses to ask what’s scarier than ghosts and touches on innate fears specifically for Gonzo, and well, I’m right there with him. Where are we going? What makes us great? Are we good enough? Are we afraid of how others will perceive us, and the people we’ll lose if we don’t accomplish everything that’s expected of us?
Muppets Haunted Mansion is both delightfully farcical and unsurprisingly leaves us with the kind of beautiful message self-reflective Muppets deliver best.