Netflixable? “Ghostbusters” meets “Ghost” — “We Have a Ghost” is a bust

Was this what Netflix was thinking in serving up its overlong supernatural action comedy, “We Have a Ghost?”

They won’t need to keep the streaming rights to “Ghost,” “Ghostbusters” or “Monster House.” They don’t have to wish they had Disney’s “Haunted Mansion,” not if they mash up all of those films into one two-hour-plus PG-13 title.

A thriller that isn’t thrilling, a horror comedy that rarely produces more than a chuckle or three, a sentimental tale that can’t quite wring a tear out of death and loss, “We Have a Ghost” dishonors pretty much every hit film it steals from.

We have reason to expect better from the writer-director of “Freaky” and director of the “Happy Death Day” films. But given that Netflix blank check and lack of editorial supervision business model, a dud was almost pre-ordained.

An opening tease tells us there’s something weird about this 19th century Greater Chicagoland two-story fixer-upper. The previous family fled in the dark of night.

The new folks roll up in their ancient Jeep Cherokee, ask the real estate agent “Nothing like, bad happened here, right?”

The family’s sketchy years are barely sketched in, but father Frank (Anthony Mackie) and mom Mel (Erica Ash) are ready for another “fresh start.” Older son Fulton (Niles Fitch) rolls with it. But sensitive guitarist and classic-rock-loving Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) does not.

“How many ‘fresh starts’ are we at now, Dad?”

Naturally, he’s the one who first sees the ghost, a shrieking mute in a bowling shirt with “Ernest” stitched over the pocket.

Kevin is unafraid and unmoved in that modern teen way. All he sees is something cool he can video-record on his phone. As the ghost (David Harbour) manifests himself as Kevin’s singing, he can only assume they share a love of Credence Clearwater Revival.

Kevin barely has time to learn a few of this unspeaking ghost’s “rules” — “We can’t touch you, but you can touch us, kind of like a stripper!” — before big brother grabs his phone and finds out, followed by Dad, followed shortly thereafter by Mom. She’s the only one to act like she’s seen a ghost.

Dad? He’s always got an eye on the next get-rich-quick scheme. It’s time to monetize this calamity via social media dominance.

Kevin tries to solve the mystery of who the dead man is, helped by Joy, the mouthy, stereotype-riffing and ripping Japanese-American classmate (Isabella Russo) who happens to be his trombone-playing neighbor.

The funniest sequence in the film is the tried-and-true life-cycle of an online phenomenon montage, with the ghost video going viral, then self-promoting online leeches videoing their commentary on it, “I See Dead People” memes and fans videoing “The Ernest Challenge,” even though nobody but a real ghost could actually run through a wall.

Jennifer Coolidge plays the “West Bay Medium,” a “basic cable” paranormal show hostess who is sure this is fakery and is totally fine with that — until Kevin eggs Ernest into “attacking” her. Tig Notaro plays an academic researcher turned author, one with a “secret government project” past.

And all of this stands between Kevin and his new friend Joy getting to the bottom of “Ernest’s” trauma, the event that has him haunting this particular fixer-upper.

Car chases, military “ghost buster” activities, channel-surfing by “Ghost” on TV, Dad’s endless hustles to cash in on this gift from beyond the grave, “We Have a Ghost” at least references all the elements that could have been developed into something funnier.

Writer-director Christopher Landon, despite the generously provided screen time allotted, doesn’t serve up anything anyone over the age of ten might giggle over.

Coolidge leans on her oversexed and over 50 shtick for a laugh, but the reliably funny Notaro is just hung out to dry.

Mackie might have made something out of his barely-outlined con artist father figure, had he given the guy a manic edge. Harbour seems ill-used here as well.

That adds up to a mash-up action comedy that teases you with everything it might have been, every amusing possibility not followed through on, and then defiantly refuses to on those possibilities.

Rating: PG-13 for violence, some sexual/suggestive references and and profanity

Cast: Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Anthony Mackie, David Harbour, Isabella Russo, Erica Ash, Jennifer Coolidge and Tig Notaro.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Christopher Landon, based on a short story by Geoff Manaugh. A Netflix release.

Running time: 2:07


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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