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I would have loved 'We Have a Ghost' as a 10-year-old

© 2023 Netflix, Inc.

Christopher Landon has recently made a nice name for himself with a run of cheeky horror comedies that are reasonably fun, although there’s plenty of blood and murder going on, and so I’m not sure I’d think it would be the best idea to be showing them to kids.

Not knowing anything about his newest, called We Have a Ghost, I was surprised when I turned it on and discovered it’s geared far more to a family audience, the sort of thing I probably would have loved when I was about 10 years old. The movie finds Anthony Mackie and his family moving into an enormous, dilapidated house that’s been sitting vacant for a reason we soon learn, if the title hasn’t tipped us off—there’s a ghost haunting the place. Although “haunting” is a strong word, given that he’s really just a regular guy who’s not particularly scary. The teenage boy in the family, Kevin, strikes up a friendship with the ghost, who’s named Ernest, although once a video of Ernest ends up on the internet, the world goes crazy and Kevin has a lot to negotiate, including crowds of people camping outside the house and a very interested paranormal activities unit from the federal government.

What ends up happening is that this turns into the sort of adventure romp we might have seen in the 1980s, although it’s mercifully not a nostalgia trap. It has exactly the kind of musical score you’d hear in something like The Goonies; liberal use of a certain curse word that starts with “s,” which used to be par for the course for something like this, kids or not; and young people trying to save their nonhuman friend from the clutches of a shadowy group that wants to perform experiments.

David Harbour, who plays Ernest, is quite good in what turns out to be a wordless performance, and by the end, the movie adds some unexpected poignance that did get me a little misty-eyed. Has everything in We Have a Ghost been done better before? Without question. It’s all far too long and tries to pack in way too much, but it’s cute and pleasant enough, and like I said, I probably would have loved it when I was 10.

We Have a Ghost is on Netflix.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.