February 22nd, 2023
MOVIE: WE HAVE A GHOST
STARRING: JAHI DI’ALLO WINSTON, ANTHONY MACKIE, DAVID HARBOUR, TIG NOTARO, JENNIFER COOLIDGE
DIRECTED BY: CHRISTOPHER LANDON
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
We Have a Ghost is the seventh film from director Christopher Landon and it’s safe to say that he has found his style. His work is often genre melding. He mixed body-swap and horror situations in Freaky. He used the Groundhog Day device of repetitive days and Science Fiction in Happy Death Day 2U. His recent might be his most precarious in We Have a Ghost. Where the other films had the benefit of slasher tropes, this new installment is more tame and it is worse for it. Not to say there isn’t a place for a friendly romp with spirits wreaking havoc from beyond the grave, but We Have a Ghost more often feels like death than delight.
We briefly see the previous owners getting as far away from the home as possible. Who wants to live with a ghost? One-year later we meet the Presley family– Father Frank (Anthony Mackie), mother Melanie (Erica Ash), oldest son Fulton (Niles Fitch), and youngest Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston). The house is a dilapidated fixer-upper in Chicago and right now the Presley’s are just desperate enough to take the cheap asking price. For Kevin, he’s a loner and sick of change, but his life certainly takes a turn when he meets a ghost named Ernest (David Harbour) living in the attic.
Unlike other movies such as Casper or even Ghost Dad, We Have a Ghost is aware that it lives in the digital age, and leans into the presence of Ernest becoming a viral sensation for Frank and his kids. Millions of views on YouTube and now Ernest is a big hit. With that attention comes questions from the CIA, a scientist named Dr. Leslie Monroe (Tig Notaro), and television medium Judy Romano (Jennifer Coolidge in a hilarious but brief role) looking to make a buck off it. The adventure arrives with everyone wanting to find out what Ernest is all about but Kevin and his new friend Joy (Isabella Russo) just want to help him remember who he was before he died.
From a screenplay standpoint, We Have a Ghost is relatively fine, written by Landon and adapted from Geoff Manaugh’s story “Ernest”. The glaring issue is the lack of delivering any true laughs or giving us a genuine reason to care. The character of Ernest can’t speak. Harbour looks like a grown-up Charlie Brown while his ghostly powers are quite limited. The truth is Landon might have been trying to make a light-hearted story about family, the power of connection to past and present, but instead he made a laboring task. It’s interesting to see Macky and Harbour take on new kinds of roles, often playing second or third to the lead, but they leave much to be desired here. It feels like a downgrade from both of their capabilities.
Although it is rated PG-13, I would say the biggest problem is that We Have a Ghost is almost too tame. It also deals with the subject matter of life, death, and five other plots that never gel together. On one side it’s about a family reconnecting. On another side it’s about government agencies tracking down a ghost. It’s also about Kevin and Joy finding a new purpose through Ernest. And it’s about the mystery of who Ernest is and why he is a ghost. All of it mixed together, none of it funny, and a run time of over two hours that nearly broke me.
That makes it another miss for me on Christopher Landon. He’s a director that is so close. He hit it out of the park with Freaky, but outside of that, he’s often just a bit shy of me loving all his work. I commend original filmmaking and fresh ideas outside of the normal box-office stuff. But We Have a Ghost is the kind of company that outwears its welcome.
WE HAVE A GHOST IS ON NETFLIX FRIDAY FEBRUARY 24TH, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady