THE STORY – The discovery that their house is haunted by a ghost named Ernest makes Kevin’s family a social media sensation. But when Kevin and Ernest get to the bottom of the mystery of Ernest’s past, they become targets of the CIA.
THE CAST – David Harbour, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Anthony Mackie, Tig Notaro, Jennifer Coolidge, Erica Ash & Niles Fitch
THE TEAM – Christopher Landon (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 95 Minutes
We have a problem. A Netflix problem. The dominant streaming platform that has bent the entire film industry to its will can’t suppress its habit of creating disposable, visually unappealing movies. The shocking way that these films are unable to stick onto the cultural consciousness for longer than the lifespan of a gnat has even become something of a joke to cinema lovers. The latest piece of content to tumble into the algorithm is “We Have a Ghost,” written and directed by Christopher Landon. Although Landon shepherded to the screen the well-regarded horror-comedies “Happy Death Day” and “Freaky,” his latest film has none of the ingenuity or laughs of his previous works and instead settles for being an unfunny and overlong piece of content.
Seeking to start a new chapter in their lives, the Presley family moves into the ultimate fixer-upper. However, they quickly discover they’re not alone – a ghost named Ernest (David Harbour) haunts their attic. The family’s younger son Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), quickly bonds with Ernest, who’s hardly a frightening spirit. But once word of their ghostly cohabitant spreads on the Internet, the Presleys find themselves in the middle of a media firestorm that quickly catches the attention of the CIA.
With such a jokey, self-aware title that brings to mind the oft-parodied “We Bought a Zoo,” one would think this film would deliver on the laughs. But much like a ghost, the jokes are wispy thin, and transparent. Much of the humor comes from references to modern life, technology, and trendy buzzwords designed to make the audience chuckle in recognition rather than from the actual construction of a laugh line. Outside of one or two moments, the film is a seriously unfunny venture. And when it’s not making a lackluster attempt at humor, the movie cranks up the sentimental value to a toothache-inducing level of sweetness. But the film doesn’t do enough work to make the audience care about the characters, leading to these moments of attempted emotion feeling merely hollow and uninteresting.
Being that this is a Netflix movie, it should be expected that it’s very unappealing to look at. And on that front, the film meets expectations as with so many direct-to-streaming films that the company hosts, it has an overall compressed, digital sheen, accompanied by flat lighting and uninspired cinematography. And the special effects simply look cheap. When the titular character is an otherworldly creation that always appears transparent and spectral, it’s a huge problem when the film doesn’t have the capacity or ability (or care) to make him look impressive. Ernest the ghost is poorly rendered and distractingly unpleasant to look at in terms of the visual effects used to accentuate his supernatural qualities. Harbour gives it some effort with an entirely mute, physical performance, but his hard work is lost under ugly computer adornments.
In almost every aspect, “We Have a Ghost” is underwhelming. It’s not humane enough to be moving and not funny enough to be a worthwhile comedy. And at over two hours long, much like an unwanted spirit that refuses to vanish, it seriously overstays its welcome.