This paranormal activity isn’t as funny as it should have been.
If director Christopher Landon can specialize in horror comedies, as demonstrated with time warps in “Happy Death Day” and body swap comedies in “Freaky,” then he should have specialized in the ghost genre in “We Have a Ghost.” It’s starts off pretty funny, but the movie takes so long (running at 2 hours), that it loses our comedic interests and has us wandering around in familiar territories. It wants to be “Casper” and “Ghostbusters,” but it doesn’t push itself further.
If David Harbor was able to make up for his awful performance in “Hellboy” by doing something lively with Santa Clause in “Violent Night,” then he should have been given more dialogue. I can’t tell if he was supposed to be in the tradition of Harpo Marx of if the film wanted to be serious about his ghost character Ernest trying to figure out why he can’t cross over. At least we think his name is Ernest, because of the bowling shirt he’s forced to wear for eternity. At least I can assume that.
The film has to open like a screwball Landon directed comedy when a family comes out of the house screaming. And a year later, it goes on the market at a fair price. The family buying the home consists of Anthony Mackie as the dad Frank Presley, Erica Ash as the mom Melanie, Niles Fitch as their eldest son Fulton, and Jahi Di’Allo Winston as the mopey little brother Kevin. Kevin finds Ernest in his attic, takes a video of him on his iPhone, shows his dad and brother, and they upload it to YouTube. Like the main characters in “Nope,” they want to use this proof of this entity for media fame.
Kevin connects with Ernest like how Christina Ricci connected with Casper, and he’s willing to help him find the memories he’s lost. What happened to him, and why can’t he remember?
Winston does some good work as the kid, especially when he eases his emotions. And he also has his tender moments with Harbour and Mackie, as well as some comic relief from Isabella Russo as his wisecracking neighbor and love interest Joy. And Jennifer Coolidge offers some tickles as a TV medium, who sees Ernest acting like he’s a possessed Harpo in a Rob Zombie movie.
But “We Have a Ghost” doesn’t take full advantage of the comedy it advertises itself as. It ends up being more serious than funny. Not that I have a problem with serious films. It can be both serious and funny, but it has to be typical when agents (featuring Tig Notaro) plan to capture the ghost for experimentation, and when the law has to chase him, Kevin, and Joy like the runaway fugitives in “The Fugitive” or “Queen & Slim.” Landon can transition his material for the right targeted audience, but somehow, he misses the mark.
This made-for-Netflix ghoulish comedy is not the David Harbour train wreck that “Hellboy” was, but it’s not the sharp and original comedy that “Violent Night” was. At least he’s not the only one Landon thinks can carry the film.
Streaming on Netflix
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