Review by Michael Jacobson
Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg
Director: Jerry Zucker
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 126 Minutes
Release Date: December 30, 2008
“Why can’t you hear me?”
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.
This is a good high definition transfer from Paramount. The colors and details are crisper than before thanks to 1080p. There is a touch of noticeable grain here and there in the darker shots, and some of Swayze's pass through and 'aura' effects are a little harsh looking thanks to the extra contrast, but overall, the anamorphic presentation serves the film well.
The TrueHD soundtrack is perfectly fine, but doesn't offer a lot in the way of rear channel or subwoofer signal. Spoken words are clean and clear and dynamic range is fairly prominent in a few select scenes, so this 5.1 audio may not be quite as demanding as you're used to.
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 Blu-ray.