Friday, March 3, 2023

Nanoreview: We Have a Ghost, but not a point to make

The novelty wears off quickly, and the story is as insubstantial as its protagonist

In the new Netflix film We Have a Ghost, a family that has recently moved to a spooky murder house finds the spooky murder victim and, instead of running away from the spectral apparition, they monetize it for clicks. At some point, the plot swerves into a murder mystery with a car chase and a sentimental reunion. The hero saves the day and gets the girl. At the end of it all, a sensation lingers in the air, an inkling that something's missing here.

This movie could be read as a satire of the online influencer age, where people will do desperate things for worldwide attention. But it only goes as far as portraying the phenomenon without offering a position on it. Or it could be read as a critique of the morbid voyeurism inherent in the true crime genre—keep in mind that "we film a ghost for fame" can be more accurately rephrased as "we exploit a murder victim for fame". But we never get to see a serious moral reckoning regarding the family's actions.

Another possible interpretation has to do with the abuses of law enforcement in the US, evidenced in a CIA agent who irreflexively mistrusts the ghost by default. Since this ghost can't be shot, can't be put behind bars, and can't be punished, the government chooses to invent even more brutal gadgets just for subduing him. Unfortunately, the CIA agent has an implausible change of heart that waters down the purpose of her subplot.

Alternatively, this is perhaps a movie about parenthood. The ghost is a loving father who is robbed of the chance to see his daughter grow up, while the newcomers to the house have to deal with a far too optimistic, professionally unfocused father who struggles to gain his sons' respect. That's the closest this movie gets to actually developing a theme, but the cake is underbaked. The ghost only gets one short scene where we see him be a father, and it's a goodbye, while the father of the not dead persuasion doesn't experience the proverbial moment of growth one would expect from this kind of story. Whatever point the movie intends to make about parenthood, its characters don't seem aware of it.

Hey, maybe I'm overthinking this and all it's trying to be is a comedy. But absurd humor is too easy to overdo, and when that line is crossed, it ceases to be funny and is just absurd. We Have a Ghost leaves the viewer perplexed more often than amused, underwhelmed instead of entertained. It has all the ingredients for a better movie, but it's happy to just have them lying around.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 5/10.

Bonuses: +1 for the character of Joy, the only legitimately funny part of the movie.

Penalties: −1 for unforgivable aimlessness.

Nerd Coefficient: 5/10.

POSTED BY: Arturo Serrano, multiclass Trekkie/Whovian/Moonie/Miraculer, accumulating experience points for still more obsessions.