Ghost: Special Collector's Edition – DVD Review

Directed by:
Jerry Zucker

Starring:
Patrick Swayze …. Sam Wheat
Demi Moore …. Molly Jensen
Whoopi Goldberg …. Oda Mae Brown
Tony Goldwyn …. Carl Bruner
Vincent Schiavelli …. Subway Ghost

Paramount Pictures presents Ghost. Written by Bruce Joel Rubin. Running time: 128 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for violent content, some thematic material and language). Released on DVD: March 13, 2007. Available at Amazon.com.

The Movie


Sam Wheat is a nice guy, has a wonderful girlfriend and a high paying job at a bank. Things are going good for him, even his relationship is heading in a nice direction when he and his girlfriend, Molly, move in to a clearly rent controlled New York loft apartment together. His future is pretty much set in terms of the truly important things.

Until one night when out on the town he is inadvertently shot while being mugged after leaving a play with Molly and, as the title implies, becomes a ghost. He becomes reluctant to “go towards the light” and instead lingers around watching his loved ones deal with his death. Until he finds out that his accidental death wasn’t such an accident after all and then spends the majority of the film trying to solve his own murder. He then enlists the help of a spiritual guide named Oda Mae Brown who’s less than reluctant to help him seeing as she’s never actually talked to the dead until they met one another.

It isn’t until he finds out that it was none other than Carl, his best friend and co-worker, who was behind it all and is entwined in a four million dollar money laundering scheme. Now Sam’s mission is to sabotage Carl’s plans and to protect Molly from anything that might happen to her. All with the disinclined help from Oda Mae.

The story itself still holds the same emotional impact that it did back in the 90’s. Ghost is a film aimed at entertaining multiple demographics, not trying to win Oscars – even though it won two and was nominated for five. It’s a nice, enjoyable movie watching experience for when you just want to sit back and be entertained. In 1990 it was impossible to avoid this movie. It was a certified blockbuster once it raked in over half a billion dollars worldwide at the box office. You couldn’t even turn on the radio without a station playing Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers.

And like the story, the visual effects still hold up quite well for a seventeen year old film. This was back when special effects companies like ILM were still doing composite work by overlapping footage. It’s still funny watching as the first half of the movie could have been simply titled Patrick Swayze Walks Through a Bunch of Stuff. Because that’s what he does for the longest time while trying to get used to what has happened to him. It almost gets to a point of being laughable but, luckily, once that feeling start to build up the story moves forward and drops it. Moving on to the real meat of the story.

Goldberg supplies the humor in the movie, making it a slightly lighter affair which the film certainly benefits from. On top of that, this is hands down her best performance in a film and her Oscar win shows that. The Oda Mae character could have easily been a farcical one, but Whoopi never allows herself to go over the top when in some cases she very well could have.

Swayze was required to mainly react to what was going on in the scene, and that is one of the main reasons why people tend to disregard his acting in the movie; but given the very hard task of being there but not “doing” anything is a very hard job. Swayze manages to pull that off to the best of his abilities. But when he has the option to interact with his co-stars, he’s able to show his real talent.

Demi Moore was poised for leading lady status in the 90’s, but after a few poor job choices quickly faded from the spotlight, only to pop back up after the whole Ashton Kutcher thing. She was an actress everyone had their eyes on, and is one of the main reasons why Ghost works. The way she projects her emotions on screen are so truthful that you truly start to feel for her character. She turned a character from someone who spends almost all of her screen time teary eyed in to a human being that we connect with.

Jerry Zucker was known for comedies, even to this day the Zucker name immediately brings to mind hilarious satire. So when it was announced that he would be sitting in the director’s chair on such a heavily dramatic movie, even writer Bruce Rubin was fearing the worst. It’s hard to make a name for yourself doing one thing and then attempting to do something entirely different, but Zucker goes against type and comes out ahead with his work here. The way he was able to shoot this movie in a still pre-CGI age required a lot of know how and experimentation.

While the film is designed to pull at heartstrings, the scripts pacing is phenomenal. When you sit down to watch the feature, the two hour runtime is over before you even realize it. Which is a key ingredient to a well made movie. It doesn’t over stay its welcome and quickly moves from one thing to another. Sure it goes by the standard script writing conventions of having key scenes happen at specific page counts, but the flow is so wonderful that it’s hard to really knock the film for that. It’s a two hour film that doesn’t feel like two hours. So many moves now adays feel like they’re two hours just or the sake of it when they could have lost twenty or so and benefited greatly.

Writing is one thing, but the direction and the cast of actors that were assembled are the ones who truly bring everything together. Even a good script that reads well on the page needs those other parts to make it something more. Words can only take a movie so far, it’s the scope of the project, the movement of the camera and the emotion put forth by the actors that turn something which merely reads good in to something memorable.

The DVD


Video:
(Presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen)
This new print has clearly been put through several cleaning processes and noise reduction, but they did absolutely nothing to avoid edge enhancement. Nearly every single frame of the movie is coated with the stuff. There are certainly enough ways by now to clean up a print without these types of digital problems. I know that film stock from the 80’s hasn’t held up so well but there is no excuse for this kind of careless work and it’s quite clear that the work done here was rushed. That problem aside, the movie looks good, detail is sharp and colors are solid, with very nice contrast. But they all are affected by the edge enhancement.

Audio:
(English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, English & French 2.0 Surround)
Ghost has a wonderful score that manages to be both original but also incorporating The Righteous Brothers song “Unchained Melody” that is featured quite prominently in the film. The bass doesn’t get as much use as it could have, and the rear speakers seem quiet for most of the movie, but this is still a very nice yet average audio presentation.

Extras:

Feature Length Commentary – This is the exact same track from the last DVD release from back in 2001 and features both director Jerry Zucker and writer Bruce Joel Rubin. It’s a bit of an uneven track as one man doesn’t take it serious enough, and the other takes it far too serious. Zucker spends most of the time pointing out family members while Rubin talks at great lengths about the more philosophical aspects of the movie and how much work and research went in to writing it. He really believes this stuff, that our world is filled with lost souls, at times it becomes a bit uncomfortable how serious he becomes on the subject. Especially given what a light hearted film the story ultimately became. He even makes mention that he laughed and cried at his own writing while putting the words down, quite pretentious and grating. There are still bits of information sprinkled in to the track regarding actors who almost were hired like Nicole Kidman, Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise. They also make some mention of the filming schedule and reveal some very odd alternate versions of scenes; like a different ending which involved Oda Mae dying at the end and then re-entering her own body and fighting off the bad guys.

Ghost Stories: The Making of a Classic (13:06) – Here you get the standard retrospective featurette where the cast and crew look back and talk about their work on the movie, how it was received by audiences and how it still holds up today. Just about everyone has returned to film new interviews, with the exception of Demi Moore who is included by using footage from a 1990 interview. It’s just like one would imagine, they go over all of the important parts of the movie like the script, directing, casting and the fanfare after it was made, but aren’t given much time to really reveal what it was like making the movie. A lot of what is mentioned here is also covered in the commentary track.

Inside the Paranormal (8:35) – Here, a whole lot of swindlers… I mean “mediums” discuss their “profession.” This piece shows them talking about Ghost and talk about how scenes from the film are accurate portrayals of the real thing and try to make people believe things like this actually happen. This is a joke featurette and I hope none of these people are getting paid for these interviews because it’s insulting.

Alchemy of a Love Scene (6:17) – This covers the memorable pottery scene from the movie but doesn’t really say a whole lot. They don’t quite talk about enough new information to make the piece feel worth the time spent watching, as they talk about the sensuousness of pottery, the fact that Demi wanted to learn how to do it so she didn’t look fake, and that the Rightious Brothers song was the perfect companion to the scene. All things we’ve known for quite some time now and are mention several times on the DVD as it is.

Cinema’s Great Romances (19:45) – AFI has gone list crazy over the past decade, this extra looks at a portion of their “100 Years … 100 Passions” list, of which Ghost was included. Also talked about here are Barefoot in the Park, Sabrina, Reds, Grease, An Officer and a Gentleman, To Catch Thief, and Titanic among others.

Rounding out the disc are a Photo Gallery, the films Theatrical Trailer, and Previews for Titanic, The Last Kiss, and Dreamgirls.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Ghost: Special Collector’s Edition
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

7
THE VIDEO

6
THE AUDIO

6
THE EXTRAS

5
REPLAY VALUE

7
OVERALL
6.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)