Ghost Dad

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Elliot Hopper (Bill Cosby) is a workaholic widower who is about to land the deal of a lifetime at work, which he hopes will win him a promotion and a company car. After he forgets his daughter Diane’s birthday, he attempts to make it up to her by promising her she can have his car when he secures the deal at work on the coming Thursday. After being persuaded to give the car to his daughter early, Elliot must hail a taxi from work, which is driven by Satanist Curtis Burch (Raynor Scheine), who drives erratically and speeds out of control. Attempting to get the taxi stopped, Elliot announces that he is Satan and commands him to stop the taxi. Shocked to see his “Evil Master,” Burch drives off a bridge and he and Elliot fall to their deaths.

Elliot emerges from the accident scene, but when he approaches a police officer, he learns that he is a ghost when the officer urinates on his shoes, then when he walks into the road, a speeding bus goes straight through him and he endures an ugly old lady on the back seat chomping into a sandwich with her legs far apart coming closer towards him. While not shown it is implied he passes through her crotch. When he gets home he discovers that his 3 children can see him, but only in a totally dark room, and they can’t hear him. He struggles to tell them what happened when he is whisked away to London by paranormal researcher Sir Edith (Ian Bannen), who tells him he is a ghost who has yet to enter the “After Life”; his soul will not cross over until Thursday.

The pressures of work and family life lead to a comedic events, such as Elliot rubbing meat tenderizer into his face while screaming about the burning in his eyes, as Elliot struggles to keep his job until Thursday to ensure his family’s survival without him. One day, he must choose between staying in an important work meeting and helping his son with a magic trick at school. He eventually decides that his family’s happiness is more important and walks out on his furious boss, Mr. Collins (Barry Corbin), who later fires him.

Dejected, Elliot reveals himself as a ghost to his love interest, Joan (Denise Nicholas) whose initial shock soon turns to sympathy. Edith arrives from London to announce that Elliot is not dead; his spirit jumped out of his body in fright. In the excitement to find Elliot’s body to reunite his spirit with it, Diane trips on a pair of skates that her little sister Amanda left on the stairs; she falls and is seriously injured. The family rush her to the hospital where her spirit has also jumped out of her body. As she delightedly flies around, Elliot begs her to re-enter her body; his own has started to “flicker.” When he collapses, Diane becomes concerned and races into the intensive-care unit to find her father’s body. She helps him into the room and they discover that the taxi driver had taken his wallet before the accident, so he has no identification. Elliot returns to his body and wakes up; Diane does the same and jumps off the operating table to tell the family what has happened.

As the reunited family leave the hospital, Elliot spots a yellow taxi parked outside and Burch behind the wheel. Delighted to see his “Evil Master,” Burch returns Elliot’s imitation Gucci wallet back. Elliot then tells Burch to go to hell and sit on red hot coals waiting for him “until it snows.” Curtis agrees enthusiastically and drives off while Elliot, Joan, Edith, and the family leave the hospital.

REVIEW:

So, Bill Cosby has had huge success as a comedian and on the small screen, but when it comes to the big screen, not-so-much, as I last saw in Leonard part 6 (whatever happened to first 5 parts?!?). Cosby takes another stab at big screen success with Ghost Dad, but is there any difference in the result?

What is this about?

When workaholic widower Elliot Hopper (Bill Cosby) is killed in a tragic accident, his three children — Danny (Salim Grant), Amanda (Brooke Fontaine) and Diane (Kimberly Russell) — are left parentless. Now, Elliot has three days to return from the dead and get his family’s finances and priorities in order. Will he be a better father in the afterlife?

What did I like?

The zone. Usually, we are used to seeing Bill Cosby play a character that is squeaky clean and extremely likable, such as Dr. Huxtable or Fat Albert. As Elliot Harper, though, he isn’t necessarily unlikable, but he doesn’t make you want to give him a big hug. This guy is just out to move up at his job and forget about his deceased wife. Stepping out of his comfort zone, in terms of characters worked for Cosby. I joked with someone last night that he stepped out of it in real life, as well, and has just become a bitter old man. Ha!

Connexus. The connection Cosby forms with the kids is heart warming, especially the scene where he triumphantly connects with his son, despite the consequences. If you know Cosby, then you know how important family is to him, so this is no surprise that he is able to make the connection so believable.

Give up the ghost. As far as ghosts on film go, Cosby’s characters isn’t the worst. As a matter of fact, watching him fumble through his new found situation may very well be the best part of this film. I actually felt that I was with him on this journey to convince certain people he was still alive, come to terms with his state of non-living, and still be an effective father.

What didn’t I like?

Ball of confusion. For me, this plot could have worked, but somewhere along the way things got so muddled that the viewer can’t really keep up with the storyline. It jumps all over the place and has no cohesiveness whatsoever. Also, for the most part, it seems to be an innocent family film, but it has Satanic elements, strong language, and sexual innuendo. Basically, this is a flick that doesn’t know what it wants to be or do.

Hereditary. Heading into the final act, it is brought up that the father of Cosby’s character was the only other known case of a spirit jumping out of their body. A few minutes later, the oldest daughter jumps out of her body, further proving the hereditary trait. All this is fine and good, but it should have been a little more, I don’t know…detailed? They way it is casually brought up and then quickly forgotten leads me to believe that they only brought it up to fill in the blanks about why he is a ghost.

Aw, hell. The boss of the company seems to be a decent guy, until the Cosby goes to help his son, which suddenly sends him over the edge. For a second there, I thought we were going to see him turn into the devil and try to claim the spirit of Cosby’s character for himself. Also, how is it possible that the Satanic cab driver, who fell into the water with his cab, still lives? That seems like some evil stuff, too, if you ask me. Maybe this would have been a more interesting and arguably better film if these two character would have had some kind of devilish intentions, especially since they brought in the Satanic angle and Cosby’s character said he was the “Evil Master”

Ghost Dad is listed on many of the worst films of all time lists. As much as I tried to see the positives in this film, there just aren’t very many. While it isn’t as horrible as many think it is, I don’t think this is a flick that should be seen in any other form than a couple of clips. The few redeeming factors this film has aren’t enough to save it and leaves you wondering how a competent actor director Sidney Poitier allowed this to be released under his name. I only hope that the studio made changes and the result was this. All that being said, avoid this film, if you can. Trust me, it is not worth your time.

2 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “Ghost Dad”

  1. […] debut. Last week, I sort of jumped all over Sidney Poitier for directing Ghost Dad. Well, this is his directorial debut, and it turned out to be a strong one. There are missteps, to […]

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