The paranormal family adventure movie, We Have a Ghostit’s now streaming, but should you watch it?
Based on the short story “Ernest” by Geoff Manaugh, We Have a Ghost is a mixture of a ghost story mixed with elements of mystery, adventure and family comedy.
Written and directed by weird & happy death day creator Christopher Landon, the film revolves around the Presley family who have recently purchased a cheap new home that may have a reason for its bargain price. While checking the attic of their home, youngest son Kevin (Jahi Winston) soon discovers a groaning, thrashing ghost in the form of Ernest (Weird stuff David Porto). Completely unfazed by his presence, Kevin forms a rapport with Ernest and tries to figure out why he might be trapped in this house instead of going over to the other side.
While Kevin’s intentions for Ernest may be purer of heart, his father Frank (The Avengers Anthony Mackie) and his brother Fulton (These are U.S star Niles Fitch) seem to have different motives for their paranormal roommate. After Kevin films his first interaction with Ernest and sends it to his father, his father decides to post these interactions online to try and become an internet sensation. This draws all forms of attention to the Presleys and Ernest; from devoted fans camping out on the family lawn to the more sinister plans of CIA operatives who want to capture Ernest for their own agenda. Throw in interactions with psychic mediums and people from Ernest’s past and you have an overwrought, confusing “shouldn’t be 2 hours long” movie from a writer/director who did a MUCH better job.
We’ve seen all kinds of ghost story movies over the years. Most of them tend to have a territorial and terrifying presence that seems to frighten the last inhabitants of the house into keeping their home to themselves for eternity. Rarely, but quite often, you meet a friendlier entity who might gently ask you out or maybe even develop a relationship with your new roommates.
We Have a Ghost More of the latter follows as the family hugs (and explores) Ernest, even though he can’t speak, can’t remember anything from his past, tries to scare them on their first few dates, and has no obvious connection to them.
Casper is a popular example of a friendly ghost, of course. He’s exceptionally friendly despite his terrible ghost uncles and he’s the ghost of a boy, so it makes sense when he falls in love with and befriends the daughter of an afterlife therapist.
This movie struck me as being closer, pardon the phrase, “spirit” to the relationship between Lydia and recently deceased couple Adam and Barbara in Tim Burton’s dark comedy classic Beetlejuice, except nowhere near the quality. Lydia, a goth teenager who admits to being “weird and ordinary” initially encounters Adam and Barbara in a similar, more bland and fearless way, but quickly becomes intrigued by them and befriends them as she reads the handbook for the recently deceased and discovers their situation is fascinating, even if they don’t want her family to be around.
Her relationship with them seems completely plausible given Lydia’s quirky personality, fascination with death, and isolation in a new home with parents who don’t understand her and not a friend in sight.
As for this movie, Kevin and Ernest’s relationship makes very little sense from the start; mostly because we don’t know much about any of them and what little we do know doesn’t add up in any way to continue the mystery of Ernest’s past and his inability to cross over to the other side. Sure, Kevin is a sad teenager moving to a new place, but he also seems to have a solid relationship with his mother and older brother and instantly befriends the teenage neighbor, Joy (Isabella Russo). He has no paranormal fascinations and instead has a musical geek vibe that quickly fades as the film progresses. He is also not very kind and seems reluctant to befriend anyone, especially a ghost who no longer looks human like Adam and Barbara from Beetlejuice. As for Ernest, he can’t express himself very well and can’t make out anything more than a groan or groan.
He’s older and doesn’t seem to have anything in common that appeals to Kevin in any way. He doesn’t seem like a father figure when his own father seems like a scheming failure most of the time, so he doesn’t fill a need there. Also, it would make more sense for him to tell his family about Ernest and try to convince them not to live in this new place he called “junk” than to actually try to help Ernest figure out why he’s in prison. This is the basis for the film and it is extremely flawed.
While this vital character chemistry falls flat, I think the biggest problem with the film is its excessive bloat and nearly 2 hour runtime. Several scenes feel awkward and certain B-plots don’t feel necessary.
Unfortunately for these normally funny character actors, I got nowhere with the “paranormal psychologist turned CIA agent turned disgrace turned author who has a shot at redemption” character arc of the hilarious comedian Tig Notaro. Why do we care about the CIA and its defunct ghost studies program? Why do we care about her motives? We have to dedicate this time to Ernest because we don’t know anything about him. We already have enough distractions with the social media element and the eventual villain that presents itself at the end of the story. This whole thing seemed very redundant and superfluous. We also have Jennifer Coolidge as a medium who seems to have neither the skill nor the desire to try and conjure Ernest in her home, even though she brought her show to them.
These multi-minute scenes do nothing but try to stifle the laughs in a movie that had enough of the road adventures to come and could easily have been cut from the movie. I’m not saying the movie would be totally fixed by cutting 20 minutes, but it would fly by a lot faster and become a lot more focused if it did.
The positives of this movie mostly come from Ernest’s redemption arc and the arrival of the real villain in this story, though it’s too late for a truly solid impact. Once we get Ernest out of the house, the movie seems to move along much better and deliver more enjoyable and interesting material.
The car chase with a playful Ernest darting between police cars is one of the funniest in the entire film, and the mystery element of a potentially disastrous discovery about Ernest’s past leads to a satisfying ending to right the wrongs committed at the time. . of his death is the most intriguing part of the whole story. It makes me wonder how much of this script is from the short story and how much has been added to increase the page count and add a few laughs.
If this film has any success, it will likely be due to David Harbour’s total commitment to the character of Ernest. Playing a mute ghost who has to create sympathy and humor with just looks and takedowns sounds daunting, but Harbor pulls it off as well as you might expect if you were Christopher Landon. Harbor capitalizes on the fatherly charm he exudes as Hopper in Weird stuff and harnesses that energy to trick us into thinking he had to be a good father, although we didn’t have evidence for a long time on this story.
General, We Have a Ghost commits the ultimate cinematic sin of trying too hard and adding too many characters and subplots that end up taking you away from the center of your story. Wasted efforts by a star-studded cast failed to save the film from itself and didn’t entertain as much as I’d hoped.
What We Have A Ghost On Netflix If You Like It
- ghost father
- hocus pocus
We Have a Ghost MVP
Isabella Russo as Joy Yoshino.
Despite not having the flashiest resumes next to her MCU and “Stranger Things” alumni, Isabella Russo really seemed to pop when given the chance in this movie.
Playing the role of quirky friend, love interest and brilliant sidekick, Isabella has gathered enough presence and range to prove she can stop or even outrun her lanes. For a minor character, she seemed to have just as much, if not more, depth than Kevin did in a more important role.
Play, pause or stop we have a ghost
The notable stars involved aren’t always front and center and talented writer/director Christopher Landon seems off his game in this lackluster and often baffling family romp.