GHOST - Golden Oldies On the Big Screen
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: During my 20-year movie-critic career, none of my reviews touched a nerve as much as this one. I thought ‘Ghost’ was just OK — but when it became a monster hit (no pun intended) local fans came after me with complaining calls and letters to the Deseret News, my primary employer, and to KSL TV and Radio, where I worked part time.
Nary a week went by for a couple of months when someone didn’t call into ‘The Movie Show,’ a call-in radio program that Doug Wright and I did each Friday, to rake me over the coals. And for years after the picture left town we still had occasional callers dressing me down about it. I would explain that I didn’t dislike the film … I just apparently didn’t like it enough.
Anyway, here’s that original review, since ‘Ghost’ is returning to local theaters for a two-day run this weekend, courtesy of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies — Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 24 and 25. My review was published in the Deseret News on July 13, 1990.
And here it should be noted here that in addition to being a blockbuster box-office success, ’Ghost’ was nominated for Academy Awards for best picture and best editing, as well as for Maurice Jarre’s score. And it won for best screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin and this is the film that earned Whoopi Goldberg her best supporting actress Oscar. So you see — what do I know?
"Ghost" — not to be confused with "Ghost Dad," despite some inherent resemblances — is the story of a really nice banker (Patrick Swayze) who is murdered and finds himself locked in some kind of spirit world where he must remain until his murder is solved.
At least that's how it seems — though there are lots of other ghosts wandering around the streets of Manhattan who, for some reason or other, can't get to heaven either.
Learning he can communicate with a phony psychic (Whoopi Goldberg), Swayze uses her to make contact with his girlfriend (Demi Moore). He needs her help to find the motive for his being killed.
Whoopi Goldberg as a psychic demonstrates with ghostly Patrick Swayze that spirits should be heard ... for felt ... and not seen in 'Ghost' (1990).
But "Ghost" is so superficial and there are so few supporting characters of any depth that it's very easy to figure out who the bad guy is — despite attempts to make this movie a mystery of sorts. (In fact, neither Swayze nor Moore seems to have any friends or relatives at all.)
Swayze eventually manages to solve the mystery, with Goldberg's and Moore's help. And he benefits from a lesson in learning to move physical objects by concentrating with a grimace (just as Bill Cosby does in "Ghost Dad"), under the tutelage of Vincent Shiavelli, who offers a wonderful and all-too-small role as a territorial ghost who rides the subways.
Swayze, on the other hand, is called upon to do little more than look perplexed and/or frustrated, while Moore has lots of close-ups as she cries.
Goldberg is funny and brings the film to life single-handedly in her scenes, but she's so out of sync with the overall tone it's as if she wandered into the wrong movie.
"Ghost" is a mix of too many genres (the ending looks like the conclusion of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind") and a rather wrong-headed romance. We already know they can't get together.
If you want a ghost/mortal romance that does work, rent "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir."
"Ghost" offers only infrequent pleasures. It is rated PG-13, despite violence, sex, partial nudity, profanity and vulgarity.