A troubled teen, a non-speaking ghost could make a hell of a story, and they did!
Hollywood seemed to have moved away from the horror comedy genre that was very popular in the 1980s and the 1990s. Director Christopher Landon, however, takes the audience back to the time when Ghostbusters and Beetlejuice were extremely popular and successful. We Have a Ghost tries to recreate that magic five decades later and although it doesn’t succeed like the aforementioned flicks it does manage to serve as a breath of fresh air at a time when big-budget flicks are dropping left, right, and center.
In Illinois, the Presley family (two boys and their parents) moves into a creepy old house that might be haunted. While the youngest son Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) is angry at his father Frank (Anthony Mackie) for his failed ventures as well as moving around the country, his life changes when he encounters a ghost named Ernest (David Harbour). Since he has been in worse situations than standing in front of a ghost, the troubled teen befriends the ghost who can’t talk, doesn’t remember his past, and has no clue how he ended up as a ghost. Together the two – along with Kevin’s neighbor Joy (Isabella Russo) – try to figure out Ernest’s past before the entire world including the CIA manages to get their hands on him.
Since the film’s main character is from the 1980s, the director doesn’t lose that touch and reminds the audience of the many classics from that era namely E.T., Ghostbusters, and even a hint of Back to the Future and watching these films is still considered a family tradition in some parts of the world. Using David Harbour as the ghost from the era was a brilliant idea considering he is the quintessential 1980s guy these days, especially after Stranger Things. To top it all, he is a tremendous actor who doesn’t utter a dialogue throughout the film but makes you cheer for him, cry with him and clap for him through his performance.
Through his performance with his body and facial expressions, he takes the movie forward and it is through him that the audience connects with the other characters. Jahi Di’Allo Winston also impresses as the troubled teen who has seen worse in life than a ghost and thus decides to help his friend to get the closure he never could. The scenes where David Harbour’s Ernest tries to scare everyone around him, or when he finally gets the closure are top-notch, and if you cried during the climax of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, you will need tissue paper for this film’s climax as well.
There are a few factors that don’t help We Have a Ghost become the most-talked-about film of the year. At least half an hour could have been edited from the final version, giving the film the pace, it didn’t have. Not many people are keen on watching something that’s more than 2 hours long and that doesn’t help the film at all. Also, Anthony Mackie who will be featuring as the superhero Captain America in the next flick was wasted as the attention-starved father of two school-going kids. Will Smith or any other actor in his 50s would have been ideal for the character but then the director might not have wanted a big name in a small character and cast a younger father instead.
Similarly, using comedian Tig Notaro as the CIA agent was a bad choice, and any other serious actor, who could have looked and acted crazier would have done justice to the character. The movie’s plot was too simple and while for some it might be the best thing, for many it would be the biggest drawback. It offered nothing new to the audience who had already seen a troubled boy or a girl befriend a ghost or alien countless times, and deduced how the film would end. Had there been more mystery and drama surrounding Ernest’s past, it would have touched the audience even harder than it eventually did.
The Verdict 3/5
For a film that revolves around the generational conflicts that can arise between parents and children, We Have a Ghost is a one-time watch, especially when you are down. If you are a parent then you might be able to connect with the two fathers in the film; if you are a kid then you might end up cheering for the younger characters. It has everything that any family film should have and although some of the recent Netflix releases have forgotten to put that ‘family’ value, this one has it in abundance.
We Have a Ghost may not be the best ghost film you have ever seen but David Harbour’s brilliance makes you want to watch it and love it at the same time. Add to that the impressive special effects (impressive for a Netflix movie!) and a mystery that keeps you intrigued till the very end and you have a winner in your hand. Had David Harbour not been in the film, it might not have made it so far, but with superior physical acting abilities and literally no dialogue in the film, he comes out as a ghost on a mission, to win!