We Have a Ghost is not going to shake the doldrums of Netflix’s ho-hum hash of horror-comedy.
Published on April 6, 2023
Rating 2.5 /5
We Have a Ghost is a passable piece of paranormal silliness that rides a solid line between standard family comedy and playful horror hi-jinks. Coming off like a teenage modernization of Casper, the film’s premise of discovering a ghost and solving his issues of passing is not all that unique. It also goes on way too long for this type of story that meanders around trying to find funny stuff to do with its ghost premise. It’s astounding that this film finds some heart amid its many stumblings.
The story centers around the Presley family moving into a suburban home that is famously known for being haunted. The family doesn’t exactly have the best relationship with each other. The patriarch Frank (Anthony Mackie), struggles to connect with his teenage sons, Kevin (Jahi Winston) and Fulton (Niles Fitch). He’s desperate to prove himself as a provider and a popular guy, leading to clashes with his wife, Melanie (Erica Ash). Things change for the family when Kevin discovers a ghost in the attic, referred to as Ernest (David Harbour), for the shirt he wears. Ernest can’t talk and isn’t the best at his haunting job, but Kevin seems impressed by his presence.
Ernest quickly becomes the talk of the town when the family films the ghost in action. His video goes viral, and everybody keeps talking about the spirit he whips up in the social media storm. It’s honest yet sad that the highlight of a paranormal entity present for all to see is reduced to social media challenges, bickering over ghost rights, and the typical bad faith takes from people who think COVID isn’t real. Ernest’s social media debut attracts the attention of paranormal expert Dr. Leslie Monroe (Tig Notaro), committed to capturing a studying the ghost with the aid of a government organization.
From there, the film pretty much writes itself. The Presley family learns to come together, Ernest has his mystery solved, and Leslie learns that there’s more to life than trapping ghosts. The performances are decent enough, despite the ho-hum script. Making a meal out of her limited screentime is Jennifer Coolidge as a TV medium, appearing with big hair and heavy skepticism when the camera’s not rolling. Everybody else fits neatly into their roles but are not given much chance to chomp on their roles. I felt a little bad for Isabella Russo playing Kevin’s love-interest who speaks in a manner that adults often mock about Gen-Z, where she speaks bluntly about it gender norms and racial stereotypes in a manner that feels half-thought. It’s a shame because her character’s action show some charming aspects of rebellion, especially for how she brandishes a brass instrument to drown out her arguing father.
The film comes loaded with hijinks that are neatly assembled but rarely carry much surprise. Action scenes include a mad dash from a pursuing mob of ghost fans and a car chase with police. It was a bit shocking just how much carnage came about with the car chase. A film such as this would feel like it would settle for the cars crashing into fruit stands or a fire hydrant. Instead, this film favors scene of cars getting clipped by trains and smashing into trucks. You almost have to remind yourself that nobody dies in this crash because these crashes appear quite brutal. The finale of the film favors a darker conclusion but it mostly works for mounting the tension and making the audience care about the ghost getting vengeance for the life that was taken from him.
We Have a Ghost is not going to shake the doldrums of Netflix’s ho-hum hash of horror-comedy. It merely comes off as less annoying picture for how often it shirks becoming a slog and favors heart over hijinks. It also comes off extremely watered down for trying to ground much of its paranormal elements. All of this results in a film that feels like a ghost; nice to look at but transparent and unable to fill its space.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.