Marty McFly, Ghost Whisperer.
Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) isn’t the most moral man around, but he gets by with what he can; which is showing up to funerals of the recently-deceased and throwing his business cards around, in which he goes under the title “paranormal expert”. Some believe it’s phony bologna, others like Lucy Lunskey (Trini Alvarado), believe he really can speak and reason with the dead. And they aren’t incorrect in their thinking either, it’s just that maybe they don’t quite know how much Frank does in fact talk to these ghosts. In fact, he talks to them all the time and even has a scam-plan running with them where he’ll tell the ghosts where to go and whom to spook, so that he can get a call, show up and practically save the day, all for a healthy price, of course. So yeah, he may be a bit of a scam-artist, but he’s making a living at doing it and nobody knows how he is, so there’s no problem with that a single bit. That is until the Grim Reaper shows up and tries to put all of Frank’s, as well as his fellow ghouls’ shenanigans to a much-needed, much long rest. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m talking about death. He’s going to get rid of them forever.
Since Peter Jackson was making his name pretty well-known during the early 90’s in his native New Zealand, it only makes sense that eventually Hollywood would catch on, give him a call and see what they can do about making him a bigger name in their neck of the woods. Just ask any foreign director who made their names known with a big hit on their shoulders, and they’ll practically tell you that Hollywood has a knack for doing this, and the results usually aren’t pretty. Sometimes they can be, but other times, they don’t quite work out as well as maybe the Hollywood producers had originally planned on.
This is one of those cases.
Don’t get me wrong though, it isn’t like Peter Jackson’s inspired vision was ever lost in the process of this movie being made, edited and marketed to a wider audience. In fact, I’d probably wager that that’s where the main problems for this movie arises in that he couldn’t quite make up his mind as to whom he wanted to appeal to, other than just his usual band of misfits who loved all of his movies before his big break in Hollywood. That’s why there’s a slight problem with this movie and it’s tone; it never quite knows whether it wants to be a dark comedy about death, the after-life and the effect it has on those who are alive, or a slap-stick, full-blown comedy about a bunch of silly willy ghosts that like to do crazy things, even if they are just souls floating throughout the atmosphere. Jackson never quite finds that balance either, and it becomes painfully clear that this flick would have definitely benefited from that.
Then again though, I have to give Jackson still a bunch of credit for at least sticking to his vision, and making this something of his own natural beast. Every moment of horror, sprinkled with just a dash of humor, feels exactly like something you’d get from a Jackson movie, even if there aren’t loads and loads of blood or gore thrown all over the place. It’s weird that even though this is an R-rated movie, that there wasn’t as many ketchup packets to be seen here. It’s not like there were too many moments arouse that needed a nice helping of some red paint, but it wasn’t like the movie was necessarily supposed to be tame or anything. But still, Jackson gets past this and does give us a reasonably fun and light horror flick, that’s probably more about the thrills, than the chills.
However, those chills and thrills begin to somehow go away by the end, and the movie seems to get bland. Suddenly, Banister’s back-story comes to light and while it surely was interesting to see who he really was before all of these crazy ghosts came into his life, it still brought down the speed and fun of the first-half. It seemed like Jackson wanted to bring some depth and emotion into this story, which would have gone a real long way, had the movie not been so light on its feet in the first place. Because the movie was so wacky and wild for the first hour, once it gets deep into dark themes like death and the people who succumb to it, it feels strange and out-of-place, as if Jackson had intended for this to be apart of a whole other movie entirely. Instead, he just got stuck with a goofy movie starring Michael J. Fox and all of the ghosts he hangs out with, one that’s even an old Western cowboy who humps a statue. Yup, it gets that silly, which I was fine with, but once again, gets lost in the shuffle of an overly-serious last-act. One that also takes a cop-out ending, which really bummed me out more than anything else here.
Speaking of the Fox, the guy does pretty well as Frank Bannister, giving us his usual wise guy, up-to-no-good persona we usually see from him. He always has some wise-crack to say in passing and seems like a pretty good guy, underneath all of the conning, lying and money-grubbing. Even when the movie does get a bit serious and dive right into Bannister’s life, it works for a short while because we know there’s more to this character and we know that he ain’t so bad of a dude, he just needs to stop messing with people’s minds and their wallets. Then again, the same could be said for those a-holes on Wall Street, and we all know that there’s nothing more to them!
Trini Alvarado, despite being quite the cutie, is rather bland as the supposed love-interest/admirer of Bannister’s and is okay with what she has to do, but doesn’t really bring much to the table. She’s just another pretty-face, that just so happens to fall for the strange guy on the outside. If only those types of chicks were real, then I wouldn’t have to worry about going to the clubs every night, on the prowl and looking for wife-to-be #3.
Consensus: You can definitely spot where and when Jackson’s creativity and original vision of this story comes into play, however, you can also see where and when the movie begins to lose its punch and energy, making the Frighteners seem like something more of an uneven affair.
6 / 10 = Rental!!