Christopher Landon’s aimless and stagnant We Have a Ghost is an attempt by the horror-comedy director to make a family ghost film that is light on chills, general hilarity, and soul-stirring moments.
Directed by Christopher Landon, we review the 2023 Netflix film We Have a Ghost, which does not contain spoilers.
It’s always interesting when watching a director try to straighten out their R-rated horror careers. Hell, Sam Raimi made a horror movie for kids, in my opinion unsuccessfully, with last year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. That feeling was apparent in Christopher Landon‘s We Have a Ghost. The maverick dark horror comedy director (Freaky, Happy Death Day, and the Paranormal Activity franchise) shows his softer side for the streaming giant Netflix. Landon has made a ghost film for the family that’s light on thrills, chills, and general hilarity.
We Have a Ghost Review and Plot summary
The story follows the Presley family, who have just moved to town. What brought them here? Frank (Anthony Mackie) and Melanie (Erica Ash) have found a home that’s a fixer-upper but cheap. They have two children. Their oldest, Fulton (The Fallout’s Niles Finch), is preparing to apply for colleges. Their youngest, Kevin (Charm City King’s Jahi Di’Allo Winston), marches to a different beat. He is intelligent and empathetic and prefers Terry Kath because Jimmy Hendrix said he was his inspiration.
Kevin is having some trouble adjusting. That’s until he runs into a ghost named Ernest (Stranger Thing‘s David Harbour) haunting their attic. Dressed in a 1950s bowling shirt and sporting a bad combover, Ernest tries to frighten Kevin. He gives up rather quickly because of the young man’s laughter. Kevin thinks it’s so funny he tapes it on his phone. It appears Ernest has been just going through the motions for the past years.
READ: Where was We Have a Ghost on Netflix filmed?
Kevin attempts to get to know him, but this middle-aged version of Casper cannot remember anything about himself. Nor can he talk. However, things change when Fulton uploads the video on YouTube, and Ernest becomes an internet sensation.
We Have a Ghost was adapted from Geoff Manaugh’s Ernest. So, you can thank Jim Varney’s 1980s creation for this film’s on-the-nose title. This would also explain why We Have a Ghost feels aimless and stagnant for most of the second half. There isn’t enough story there for a two-hour film. Having the production’s biggest star have practically zero dialogue is an even riskier choice. Harbour is one of the funnier comic relief dramatic actors you will find. Limiting his excellent dry delivery and physical comedy makes some scenes feel endless.
The story is essentially any family film where you have an unwanted guest, like Paddington or even What About Bob. Like in those beloved movies, you have the family embracing the nuisance, while a stick in the mud within the family ranks wants that character gone, usually the father. Here, the script is flipped a bit, which I enjoyed.
READ: Who plays Kevin in We Have a Ghost?
Here, Mackie’s Frank tries to monetize Ernest so his family gets ahead. This leads to the movie’s best scene, featuring Jennifer Coolidge playing a version of the Long Island Medium. This scene combines some genuine laughs, and the special effects are effective. I wish the subplot involving Tig Notaro as an ex-government agent hunting Ernest utilized the comedian’s skills. She is wasted here.
Is the 2023 movie We Have a Ghost good?
We Have a Ghost has all the makings of an enjoyable movie. The teen romance between Kevin and his next-door neighbor is sweet. Mackie does have a nice father-son moment. However, the moment is disingenuous when the plot leads to Ernest being reunited with someone. The moment is fumbled and undercuts the movie that will have most on the fence.
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