We Have A Ghost review: a tragically lifeless Netflix comedy

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When Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) finds a middle-aged ghost (David Harbour) in his attic, the pair must work together to uncover Ernest’s identity in Netflix’s supernatural family comedy.

In a week where Cocaine Bear looks to be hoovering up the world’s viral media attention, it seems Netflix is trying to cash in on the craze with a gloriously unambiguously titled comedy-hybrid of it own. Unfortunately, We Have A Ghost lacks the same goofy charm as its ursine competitor. Sunk by a by-the-numbers plot and a standardised look and feel we haven’t seen since the streamers stopped pumping out multiple Christmas movies every week, We Have A Ghost sadly takes a sweet premise and makes a film about as interesting as its title.

Based on the short story Ernest by Geoff Manaugh, the plot sees the Presley family move into a suspiciously cheap house in a nice Chicago neighbourhood. Once there, young Kevin’s preoccupation with seventies guitar legends endears him to the balding spectre (David Harbour) who of course lives in the attic. ‘Ernest’ might not be able to speak (his name is handily printed on his shirt though) but after accidentally making him a YouTube sensation, Kevin and his ghostly best friend embark on a quest to find out how he ended up lurking between sheets of insulation in the first place.

The premise really isn’t without charm, and there’s some headway made early on when the pair bond over their shared love of Kevin’s guitar-playing. As an entirely non-verbal entity, there’s plenty of scope for this sort of thing. As Violent Night proved, David Harbour is also a gifted comic actor. A role like this should have been a great opportunity for him to stretch his ghostly-slapstick wings. Sadly, the script doesn’t take advantage of either: for most of the film, the pretty ropey CGI ghost comes across as both emotionally and comedically inert.

The rest of the cast, too, are universally pretty solid. Jahi Di’Allo Winston brings a lot of likeability to the shy teenage protagonist. Anthony Mackie makes for a very believable strict dad, and his relationship with Kevin shines when they get a little alone time together and both are allowed to showcase a bit of vulnerability. But, especially for what has been marketed as a comedy, neither gets much to sink their teeth into beyond that. Even a brief cameo from scene-stealing Jennifer Coolidge as a TV medium only serves to remind us how few comedic set pieces are packed into the rest of the film.

It’s sad to say, considering the huge dearth of talent on screen, but We Have A Ghost is quite the disappointment. At over two hours, what could have been a charming 90-minute family comedy is, like Ernest himself, stretched far beyond its natural lifespan. With dodgy CGI, flat lighting and a premise both over-egged and under-used, maybe this ghost would have been better off left in the attic.

We Have A Ghost is streaming on Netflix now.

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