This ghost whisperer is likable, but her latest client annoys you to death.
If Darby can act as a counselor for dead people who need to settle some unfinished business, then she can’t get paid. I mean, how can she? They’re ghosts, but to her money is no object. She’s happy to help. At least we think she is under her deadpan face.
The reason she can see the dead is because she cheated death in a surfing accident, but her mother couldn’t. But she’s lucky enough to have a father (Derek Luke), who doesn’t thinks she’s crazy, but wants to make sure she makes some real friends.
“Darby and the Dead” uses an interesting concept with a likable lead like Riele Downs as the title girl, but her latest client threatens to drag this movie down. I remember seeing how the stop-motion animated feature “ParaNorman” took this particular genre on a level that appeased to both kids and adults, and it paid tribute to ghost and zombie movies at their own comedic pace. This one uses only ghosts-half of them you like, others you wish would just move on.
Her latest client happens to be her ex-childhood friend-turned popular rival Capri (Auli’i Cravalho, the voice of “Moana”), who dies in a flat iron accident, and wants Darby to throw her upcoming 17th birthday. A “Rest In Party,” if you will. Even the ghost whisper agrees it’s a stupid idea for obvious reasons.
To pull this off, the ghost gives the mortal pointers on how to be popular and earn a number of followers on Instagram. She even has to make Darby reject a nice transfer student (Chosen Jacobs from “It”) for the sake of her image, because he wears a donut mascot. At least she tries to do it nicer than she would in reality. And don’t even get Capri started on Darby dating her brother James (Asher Angel from “Shazam”).
Cravalho has proven herself to be a fine young actress, but I feel she’s miscast as the rival girl. She seems too nice of an actress to take on a role like this. Most of the movie seems to have her bullying Downs. Obviously, her character knows nothing on the genre if her apparition tries to talk to Darby in class, while she tries to look normal. What are the other classmates supposed to think? She would appear to be talking to herself.
The only one who chooses to stay in purgatory is Gary (Tony Danza), who has a friend (Wayne Knight) in need. I think they both should have been Darby’s main clients, because they’re the ones who really need to set things straight down on Earth, and they none of these three characters condescend each other based on their different generations. Using such likable iconic stars like Danza and Knight in these roles brings a certain vibe that makes us want to enjoy the film.
I did like some of the other supporting actors like Duke and Jacobs, who both have their own sentimental charms with the leading young lady, but their roles are given less to do. “Darby and the Dead” seems more interested in how the ghost tries to make the ghost whisper look popular for her own benefits, than it does on how Darby could use more life lessons.
Streaming on Hulu Tomorrow