we have a ghost bears a striking resemblance to the classic ET: The Extraterrestrial, but those skeptical about retelling the familiar story can rest easy. The Netflix family film is a heartfelt and endearing version of the tale.
In we have a ghost, father Frank (Anthony Mackie) moves his family into a new home in the Illinois suburbs, but his youngest son Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), an introverted misfit in his own family, soon discovers a ghost living in his attic. . Ernest (David Harbour) seems harmless, and after Frank captures Ernest on video, the family becomes internet famous.
However, as Kevin and his friend Joy (Isabella Russo) help Ernest uncover the truth about Ernest’s past – and his death – they all become the target of CIA ghostbusting agent (Tig Notaro). The parallels with ET are obvious – or perhaps to caspergiven Ernest’s spectral form.
However, we have a ghost does a solid job of not overhauling all the emotional beats we’ve seen before. Instead, time passes by allowing us to get to know Kevin and his family – his tenuous love relationships with his older brother Fulton (Niles Fitch) and mother Erica Ash, as well as their neighbor Joy.
We’re given snippets of the family’s uneven past without mushy montages set to melancholy manipulative music. Ernest’s comedy is on the right side of slapstick to be sweet and funny, not irritating.
In particular, it helps that Winston brings a nuance of pathos and anger to Kevin, blending it into the perfect embodiment of that odd combination of adolescent malaise and passion that makes him unpredictable and brave.
As Ernest, Harbor is fun to watch – the character himself, an amnesiac ghost, means there’s not much to sympathize with, but it’s Ernest’s relationship with Kevin and how it affects the rest of the family that matters.
There’s the wedge requirement of ‘woke’ teen dialogue, via Russo’s Joy, but it’s on the right side of bearable and you get the feeling it’s something Joy could say naturally. For anyone struggling with grief or a damaged parent/child relationship, we have a ghost will probably make you cry, but unlike Ghostbusterthe movie actually earns its quieter emotional payoff.
And then there’s the woman of the century, Jennifer Coolidge, in a cameo as a TV medium. She only has a few moments of screen time, but proves once again that she is a scene stealer.
we have a ghost is based on a short story called Ernesto, and while the tales stretched to feature films often feel sparse, the film adaptation of this story manages to fill its runtime of just over two hours. As with so many films dabbling in the paranormal, the key is not to think too critically about the ‘plot holes’ and suspension of disbelief necessary to make the film work – it just works.
While we have a ghost cannot rise to the heights of ET in the cultural zeitgeist, it’s watchable and fun and should have a place in the teen canon with cute companions who accomplish amazing things.
we have a ghost is now available on Netflix.