Special Collector's Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg
Director:  Jerry Zucker
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  See Review
Length:  126 Minutes
Release Date:  March 13, 2007

“Why can’t you hear me?”

Film ***

I can still remember seeing Ghost on opening night…myself and my date, along with the rest of the audience, were quite captivated by the film.  It was one of the most romantic movies I’d seen in a long time, and I marveled at the way it managed a skillful balancing act between romance and thriller and between drama and comedy.  I ended up thinking about the movie long after it was over…which was a mistake.

Every subsequent viewing of Ghost has followed the same pattern for me…while the picture is playing, I allow myself to fall under its spell.  I’m entranced by the ideas, the characters, and the way the story plays out.  I find myself chuckling at the right moments, and wiping my eyes at others.  But afterwards, I’m always nagged by the picture’s problems.

We’ll start with the goods:  the story is about a young couple, Sam Wheat (Swayze), an investment broker on Wall Street, and his lover, Molly Jensen (Moore), an up-and-coming sculptor.  Things seem to be going great, until the fateful night when a mugging gone wrong finds Sam shot dead.  Now a disembodied spirit, Sam learns that his death was no random accident, but a tie-in to a money laundering scandal that puts Molly in danger.  With the help of a dime store psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Goldberg, in her Oscar winning performance) who finds she can hear his voice, Sam begins the process of protecting his loved one from beyond the grave, while unraveling the mystery of his murder at the same time.

The love story is phenomenal…beautifully performed and written, there’s something appealing about the notion of those who go before us still being present in our lives, looking out for us and protecting us.  It was a notion that caused comic Rob Becker to muse that Ghost created a problematic new ideal for men:  now women liked the idea of a spirit as a mate.  He could intervene and protect, and would never leave the seat up.

And the comic aspects of the film work well, too, and are perfectly timed.  Just when we’ve had enough of the serious and the somber, the interaction between Sam and Oda Mae make for welcome humorous interjections.  The special effects are a plus, too, creating Sam’s pass-through visuals with style and believability, so much so that by the end of the picture when we watch Sam learn to manipulate physical objects, we think we’re watching the special effects then.

The film weaves a spell, as mentioned…but it doesn’t hold up to post-viewing scrutiny.  After the lights come up, I find I can’t help but consider the problems the picture presents.  For starters, there are inconsistencies in what Sam does and doesn’t pass through.  He can’t strike a blow against his enemies, yet he can sit in a chair, climb stairs, and the like.  The way Molly constantly believes the bad guys over Oda Mae, despite her revelation of secret information only Sam would know, seems a bit contrived. 

But these are nitpicks that melt away as soon as the film starts again.  The Oscar winning screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin coaxes you into forgetting about the nitpicks, as do the remarkable trio of performances by Swayze, Moore and Goldberg.  Director Jerry Zucker, known for his comic spoofs created with his brother David and their partner Jim Abrahams, proved his talent in dramatic and romantic fields with Ghost. 

Naturally, there were a few hardened critics who refused to warm to the picture, but audiences made it a blockbuster, and the Academy recognized it with a Best Picture nominee.  It lost to Dances With Wolves, but the nomination and box office dollars proved that many who saw the film did indeed believe.

Video ***

This is a good anamorphic transfer from Paramount.  The picture has held up fairly well, with good coloring and mostly sharp images…almost too sharp in some cases, as shots with Swayze’s pass through effects exhibit slight editing lines to telegraph the effect.  There is no grain and no compression evident, and the print itself is clean and in good shape.  Overall, a commendable effort.

Audio **1/2

The 5.1 soundtrack is perfectly fine, but not as involving as you might expect.  I noticed very little use of discreet signals to the rear stage, and the .1 channel was practically non-existent.  There were some scenes that I though multi channel surround could have played beautifully, but for the most part, the audio is a decent but pedestrian effort.  Dialogue is clear, and Maurice Jarre’s score sounds beautiful.  No real complaints; just nothing spectacular.

Features *** 1/2

For starters, the disc features a commentary track by directory Jerry Zucker and screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin, which is both funny and informative…both men joke about creating the Paramount logo, for example, but touch upon serious issues such as working with the actors and the spirituality of the film. 

The disc also includes several featurettes, with a making-of, an "Inside the Paranormal" one, plus ones on the great love stories of the cinema and the steamy love scene...yow.  There is also a trailer and a photo gallery.


Ghost is a benchmark love story, a satisfying thriller, a chuckle inducing comedy and an absorbing drama…it rides four horses at once and manages to keep them all in the same direction.  That alone makes it a remarkable achievement.  Though not without flaws, it’s the kind of picture that rises above any shortcomings it might have, and its many fans will be pleased to see it come to DVD as a Special Collector's Edition.

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