2023 After Kevin finds a ghost named Ernest haunting his new home, he becomes an overnight social media sensation. But when Kevin and Ernest go rogue to investigate the mystery of the latter’s past, they become targets of the CIA. We Have a Ghost We Have a Ghost.
From writer-director Christopher Landon comes We Have a Ghost, a new horror-comedy that might make Dinesh Vijan pull out a piece of paper and begin to take down notes. Like a mashup between Casper and The Haunting of Hill House, the new Netflix film stars Anthony Mackie as Frank, a businessman with a spotty track record and a chip on his shoulder, and David Harbour as the friendly ghost Ernest, whose existence Frank decides to greedily monetise.
Vega movies But the two Marvel alumni appear only in supporting roles here; the protagonist is played by newcomer Jahi Di’Allo Winston, best known for the Sundance film Charm City Kings. He plays the angsty teenager Kevin, who is tired of all the ‘fresh starts’ that his family has attempted, mainly because of his father’s missteps. There’s a sense that everybody, including Kevin’s older brother and their mother, is fed up with Frank’s get-rich-quick schemes. But the entire family begrudgingly agrees to humour him when Ernest appears in the attic of their new home and Frank sees dollar signs.
It’s immediately established that Ernest isn’t meant to be scary. He has a combover, he dresses like Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski, and is a little disappointed when Kevin tells him that his personal life is ‘1000 times scarier’ than he could ever be. They develop a fast friendship, but the movie doesn’t quite explain why Ernest is so trusting of Kevin. Nor does Landon bother to spell out why exactly Kevin is so unhappy.
Nevertheless, Kevin finds companionship in Ernest, before his dad spots business potential and decides to post videos of him on YouTube. The premise isn’t dissimilar to last year’s wonderful animated film Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, about a little shell person who, though sheer kindness alone, helps a recently divorced man get back on his feet. Ernest provides similar emotional support to Kevin, while quietly going on his own personal journey.
“We can’t touch you, but you can touch us,” Kevin says in one of their earliest interactions, foreshadowing the impact that Ernest will have on him. But Kevin is too unsure of himself to assume that he will be of any use to him. He is, of course, eventually. But first, he must deal with the sudden attention that his father’s videos bring to their family, and Ernest. The videos attract all sorts of oddballs to their property, including daytime news anchors and a grifter Jesus Christ. Tailed by a CIA agent straight out of an Amblin adventure, Kevin decides to take matters in his own hands as he goes on a mission to explore Ernest’s past, and help him along on his journey.
We Have a Ghost is indefensibly overlong, which is odd for a movie aimed at kids with short attention spans. It’s also can’t help but feel a little disposable, which isn’t a great place to be in, especially in an era that is thriving on similarly unmemorable ‘content’. But its biggest crime, by far, is not using the scene-stealing Jennifer Coolidge to her full potential.
The trouble with movies like this is that even though they’re competently made and invariably feature talented (and sometimes very popular) actors, they’re greenlit not because somebody desperately wanted to make them, but because streamers have quarterly targets to meet. There’s something so synthetic about even the most emotional scenes in We Have a Ghost. This wasn’t the case even a decade-and-a-half ago, when similarly derivative films like Super 8 and Transformers managed to have heart despite all the bells and whistles. But Landon clearly has an affinity for ’80s horror and family films; if only he’d channeled this passion into something more memorable.