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Christopher Landon makes wonderfully quirky horror films that defy the typical cynicism of the genre nowadays. He avoids the pretension of “elevated horror” by expressing contagious joy through his filmmaking in movies like “ Happy Death Day ,” " Happy Death Day 2U ," and “ Freaky .” Say what you will about their execution or quality overall; I don’t think anyone can argue against Landon having a damn blast while making them. His latest, “We Have a Ghost,” is at its best when Landon is allowed to be goofy in a way that just makes the viewer smile. Sadly, his writing isn’t as sharp as his directing, as the movie goes on way too long and through multiple endings, even as it seems content to repeat themes and images instead of building on the film’s interesting ideas. In the end, it’s a solid distraction, which is all most people are looking for on Netflix, but I’m hoping he makes “Happy Death Day 3” before revisiting this world.

Based on a short story called Ernest  by Geoff Manaugh , “We Have a Ghost” opens with the Presley family moving to a fixer-upper in Chicago. Father Frank ( Anthony Mackie ) is struggling to make ends meet and to maintain a healthy relationship with his increasingly-distant son Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston, so good in “ Charm City Kings ” and on “Everything Sucks!”). Almost immediately after their arrival, Kevin is exploring the attic when he encounters a trapped soul named Ernest ( David Harbour , giving a silent performance). Ernest can’t talk but has been scaring away inhabitants since the ‘70s when he died. Kevin doesn’t get scared. He films Ernest with his phone, and there’s suddenly a viral ghost.

Imagine if there was an actual ghost all over TikTok and YouTube. What would happen? Landon doesn’t do nearly enough with this rich concept and just has people screaming outside the Presley home, including a guy dressed like Jesus. It’s interesting to watch Frank try to use Ernest’s existence as a cash infusion, becoming a cultural agent of sorts. He even brings in a local medium for an encounter with Ernest, a scene that allows for one of the film’s more impressive effects and potential memes from a Jennifer Coolidge cameo. But there’s not enough done with the idea of what proof of the afterlife would mean. It doesn’t have to be deeply philosophical, but even a little shallow exploration might have filled this concept out a bit.

Instead, “We Have a Ghost” shifts too much focus to a paranormal scientist named Dr. Leslie Monroe ( Tig Notaro ) and her CIA boss Arnold Schipley ( Steve Coulter ). Landon’s film becomes something of a chase/road movie in its midsection as Ernest, Kevin, and their scene-stealing neighbor Joy ( Isabella Russo ) try to escape the armed guards and get to the bottom of why this poor guy hasn’t fully moved to the next plane of existence. Of course, “We Have a Ghost” becomes a bit of a whodunit too as Ernest learns about what really happened to him, including the identity of his killer.

Harbour is effective in a performance that could have been all exaggerated mugging to compensate for zero dialogue, and Winston still feels like a future star; he's so confident and natural at a young age. There’s enough to like here just in the two of them to keep teens and their parents from checking social media too often while it plays, but it lacks that thrust that would make them put the phones down for good. There’s just a lack of urgency, especially in the final act, which repeats ideas and then ends more than once. This movie needs to hum like “Freaky” and “Happy Death Day,” which were notably shorter (and felt tighter). 

Even as “We Have a Ghost” sags in places, it never completely fades into the dull background of Netflix originals of late. We may not have an outright winner, but we do have a decent diversion.

On Netflix now.

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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Film credits.

We Have a Ghost movie poster

We Have a Ghost (2023)

Rated PG-13 for language, some sexual/suggestive references and violence.

127 minutes

David Harbour as Ernest

Jahi Di’Allo Winston as Kevin Presley

Anthony Mackie as Frank Presley

Tig Notaro as Dr. Leslie Monroe

Jennifer Coolidge as Judy Romano, the West Bay Medium

Erica Ash as Melanie Presley

Isabella Russo as Joy Yoshino

Niles Fitch as Fulton Presley

Faith Ford as Realtor

  • Christopher Landon

Writer (based upon "Ernest" written by)

  • Geoff Manaugh

Writer (story by)


  • Marc Spicer
  • Ben Baudhuin
  • Bear McCreary

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Goofy but creepy supernatural tale has language, violence.

We Have a Ghost: Haunted house with two fists meeting above them.

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Parents can be essential in their kids' lives, no

Kevin shows great compassion for Ernest, selflessl

A Black family moves into a haunted house. Their r

A ghost scares people. He contorts his body, moans

Two teens share a bed in a motel (fully dressed) a

"F--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "damn," "hell," "ass,"

Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, CNN, Mac, H&R Bloc

A character mentions someone taking Xanax and pino

Parents need to know that We Have a Ghost is a dramatic comedy about a Black family that moves into a house and discovers it's haunted by an older White man, played by David Harbour. The teenage son, Kevin (Jahi Di'Allo Winston), befriends the ghost and shows compassion in trying to help him figure out how he…

Positive Messages

Parents can be essential in their kids' lives, no matter how imperfect they are as people. Teenagers can be trusted to make decisions for themselves. Doing the right thing can sometimes require skirting the rules.

Positive Role Models

Kevin shows great compassion for Ernest, selflessly working to help him uncover his past and "cross over." Ernest also stands up for and defends Kevin. Kevin's brother and even his dad Frank push him around and tease him. Frank has run through a series of get-rich-quick schemes, disappointing his family, but he's a loving father and husband. Kevin's mom also stands up for her sons. Joy is a stellar student who's unafraid of her peers. Characters break laws and wreak havoc in pursuit of their goals. Leslie does the right thing. People jump on bandwagon trends and can get carried away.

Diverse Representations

A Black family moves into a haunted house. Their race is not central to the plot, but the parents poke occasional fun at White people. Authority figures (CIA, police) are mostly White. The teen neighbor is Japanese American, and she says her dad overschedules her to prove they "fit in." She also complains about racial stereotyping at school and "gender norms." She says she wants to be a ghost and "haunt Ted Cruz." A man dresses up like Jesus Christ.

Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.

Violence & Scariness

A ghost scares people. He contorts his body, moans, and in one scene his face melts off and a skinless arm emerges out of his mouth to attempt to strangle a woman. This is all meant to be funny, but it's also creepy. People, including teenagers, are threatened by men with guns. A man shoots at a family and attacks them with household objects. A car chase results in several cars crashing. Police officers point guns at teenagers, and CIA operatives shoot tasers at and conduct tests on the ghost. A man and a woman both fall out of house windows. People get thrown around by the ghost. A woman says she'd rather swallow razor blades than give someone some information they're asking for. A man is killed and buried.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Two teens share a bed in a motel (fully dressed) and, later, one kiss. A high school senior flashes his abdomen for an Instagram selfie, refers to himself as "hot," peruses dating apps, and talks about "getting laid." Other scenes mention strippers, boners, and dry humping.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

"F--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "damn," "hell," "ass," "a--hole," "bitch," "douchebag," "butt," "d--k," "crap," "take a dump," "butt," "fool," "stupid," "sucks," "Oh my God!," "Jesus!," and the middle finger.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character mentions someone taking Xanax and pinot grigio. There's mention of getting high, being a drunk, and dying from drinking. A character drinks straight from a bottle and appears drunk, slurring his speech.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that We Have a Ghost is a dramatic comedy about a Black family that moves into a house and discovers it's haunted by an older White man, played by David Harbour . The teenage son, Kevin ( Jahi Di'Allo Winston ), befriends the ghost and shows compassion in trying to help him figure out how he died so he can "cross over." The ghost isn't scary, but sometimes he purposely tries to scare the living. These scenes can get creepy, like when the ghost contorts his body, melts his face, or tries to strangle a woman with a skinless arm that emerges from inside his mouth. Meanwhile, living adults, including police officers and CIA operatives, chase, threaten, shoot at, and try to capture or kill the ghosts and others, including teenagers. Violence involves guns, tasers, car chases, car crashes, people getting knocked over and hit over the head, and a man who is killed and buried. One man appears drunk, and another is said to have been a heavy drinker. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "douchebag," "d--k," and more. Teen kissing and references to "getting laid," strippers, boners, and dry humping. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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Community Reviews

  • Parents say (21)
  • Kids say (8)

Based on 21 parent reviews

Racist movie

A nice racist movie, if you're into that sort of thing., what's the story.

A family of four has just relocated to a new house in Chicago at the start of WE HAVE A GHOST. What they don't know is that their new home, which seemed too cheap to believe, is widely known to be haunted. Withdrawn teen son Kevin ( Jahi Di'Allo Winston ) is the first to encounter the middle-aged ghost in the attic, Ernest ( David Harbour ). His dad, Frank ( Anthony Mackie ), and older brother, Fulton ( Niles Fitch ), quickly see a means to cash in by posting videos of Ernest to YouTube. Frank hasn't quite gotten his act together, and his wife (Erica Ash) and youngest son are regularly disappointed by him. Together with high school classmate and next-door neighbor Joy (Isabella Russo), Kevin is set on helping Ernest discover what happened to him in life so he can move on from his ghostly purgatory. That discovery gets complicated once word of Ernest gets out and everyone wants a piece of him.

Is It Any Good?

Part ghost story, part horror spoof, part family drama, and part caper, this film is a little all over the map and overly long, but still enjoyable. Teen star Winston shines in the lead role of We Have a Ghost . He's almost too good for this movie, bringing a level of seriousness to his performance that doesn't always match the film's overall kooky tone, but raises the whole affair up a notch. The film benefits from strong acting throughout and fun cameos ( Jennifer Coolidge knocks her two scenes out of the park), though Harbour gets no spoken lines and is forced to emote with his eyebrows. A montage of TikTokers going nuts for the ghost is so on-point it's painfully funny. If the film had stuck with the humor and cut back on the violent scenes and sappy closure, it would have been a shorter, stronger movie overall.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about what genre of film We Have a Ghost is. Is it horror? Comedy? Satire? Drama?

Why does Frank say parenting little kids is easier than teenagers? Do you agree with his point that kids grow up and recognize their parents' flaws? Is that necessarily a bad thing? Why or why not?

How does Kevin show compassion for Ernest? How do other characters show a lack of empathy for him?

Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?

Movie Details

  • On DVD or streaming : February 24, 2023
  • Cast : Jahi Di’Allo Winston , David Harbour , Anthony Mackie
  • Director : Christopher Landon
  • Inclusion Information : Black actors
  • Studio : Netflix
  • Genre : Comedy
  • Topics : Brothers and Sisters , Friendship , Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
  • Character Strengths : Compassion
  • Run time : 127 minutes
  • MPAA rating : PG-13
  • MPAA explanation : language, some sexual/suggestive references and violence
  • Last updated : March 16, 2023

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Suggest an Update

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We Have a Ghost Reviews

movie reviews we have a ghost

Christopher Landon’s aimless and stagnant We Have a Ghost is an attempt by the horror-comedy director to make a family ghost film that is light on chills, general hilarity, and soul-stirring moments.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Mar 10, 2024

movie reviews we have a ghost

“We Have a Ghost” is entertaining even if it fritters away most of its greatest aspects.

Full Review | Aug 23, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

Christopher Landon is a talented filmmaker, and I want to think this is a mere hiccup in what will continue to be an inspired career as a genre director.

Full Review | Original Score: D | May 3, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

It’s all far too long and tries to pack in way too much, but it’s cute and pleasant enough, and ... I probably would have loved it when I was 10.

Full Review | Apr 21, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

While I thoroughly enjoyed the directors previous few films, this movie was a total misfire. The movie is so over-stuffed with subplots and ideas that none of them get developed. It's neither scary or funny. And the attempts at emotion feel manipulative.

Full Review | Original Score: C- | Mar 24, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

With We Have A Ghost, Landon further cements himself as a contemporary horror master who knows how to craft smart and entertaining stories that appeal to all ages.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5 | Mar 21, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

Not much here to see.

Full Review | Original Score: C | Mar 17, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

We Have a Ghost is indefensibly overlong, which is odd for a movie aimed at kids with short attention spans. It also can’t help but feel a little disposable.

Full Review | Mar 11, 2023

What a shame... there are a handful of brilliantly directed and exciting action scenes that show what the film might have been. It feels instead like two films, one fun and one tedious, have been Frankensteined together.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Mar 10, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

As it stands, the movie is just like its title: generic, overlong, dull, uninspired, and entirely unmemorable.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Mar 9, 2023

It's fun, especially when Jennifer Coolidge screams into (and just as quickly out of) the picture as a mad TV medium.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Mar 8, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

The film is uneven, full of plot holes, and entirely too long.

Full Review | Mar 8, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

David Harbour is perfection here, offering up a terrific silent performance that is worth the price of admission (for a film streaming on Netflix).

Full Review | Original Score: 6/10 | Mar 7, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

[Landon] loses focus while trying to convey dozens of messages in different genres. The screenplay simply grows in its unnecessary, illogical complexity and ends up becoming a convoluted mess without any idea of what it wants to be.

Full Review | Mar 7, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

We Have a Ghost starts on a promising note but is progressively haunted by the lack of a strong script and conviction.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/5 | Mar 7, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

We Have a Ghost is a cute little buddy haunted house experience that winds up tugging at your heartstrings.

Full Review | Mar 6, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

The ingredients are there for a charming and heartwarming family film...the end result just doesn't work. David Harbour's ghost being mute strips the actor of most of his abilitiy to entertain. Meanwhile, the family at the center just isn't likable.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.25/5 | Mar 3, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

It’s lively and sometimes funny, but “We Have a Ghost” struggles to fill its two-hour-plus running time.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Mar 3, 2023

movie reviews we have a ghost

This movie is terrible -- and it's so long!

Full Review | Mar 3, 2023

It gets sentimental in a very credible way, which moved me.

We Have a Ghost (2023)

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‘We Have a Ghost’ Review: Netflix’s Family-Friendly Haunted-House Movie Is a Fixer Upper

Despite strong performances from David Harbour and Jennifer Coolidge, this horror comedy feels like a misfire.

By Michael Nordine

Michael Nordine

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We Have A Ghost

Popular on Variety

Kevin, who’s withdrawn from his family in the same manner as so many angst-ridden teens before him, eventually stops laughing. Rather than ridicule the entity further or even question whether what he’s seeing is real, he instead tries to understand his plight. He quickly learns that Ernest (as the stitching on his shirt reveals his name to be) can touch others but not be touched. His halfhearted attempt at frightening Kevin seems to have been a defense mechanism, as he’d rather be left on his lonesome. Because he can’t speak and has no memories of his corporeal existence, Ernest is a bit like a stray animal who can only be approached with the utmost caution and on his own terms.

Only Kevin’s mother reacts as you’d expect the average person to: not only with fear when she sees Ernest, but anger upon learning that her family has concealed him from her. (“We are not gonna be like every stupid white family in every horror film. We are leaving!” she yells.) Ernest quickly goes viral, inspiring all manner of TikToks and even a Dr. Phil segment; it’s the latter that finally draws the attention of both a supernatural expert working with the CIA (Tig Notaro) and a TV medium who may or may not be a charlatan (Jennifer Coolidge). It will surprise few in this post-“White Lotus” world to learn that Coolidge steals her scenes and makes you wish there were more of them: It feels like stunt casting, sure, but at least it works. Harbour likewise makes the most of his character’s limitations, with pain etched on every line in his face.

The longer it goes on, however, the more difficult it becomes to discern what “We Have a Ghost” is even going for. On a tonal level, it’s more akin to a feature-length episode of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” than any horror-comedy in recent memory, its 127-minute runtime stretching like so much ectoplasm as Kevin tries to help solve the mystery of Ernest’s life and death. Rarely ha-ha funny and never scary, it’s ultimately more sentimental than anything else — a clunky approach that undermines its strong performances.

“We Have a Ghost” is based on “Ernest,” a short story by Geoff Manaugh first published in 2017 by Vice. Reading it offers a sense of what a better, more ethereal version of this movie might be like had it toned things down and not attempted to go so broad with its comedy. The result feels less like a ghost story than a movie haunted by the specter of what it could have been.

Reviewed on Netflix, Feb. 22, 2023. MPA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 127 MIN.

  • Production: A Netflix release and presentation of a Temple Hill, Halsted Pictures production. Producers: Marty Bowen, Dan Halsted. Executive producers: Christopher Landon, Korey Budd, Geoff Manaugh.
  • Crew: Director, writer: Christopher Landon. Camera: Marc Spicer. Editor: Ben Baudhuin. Music: Bear McCreary.
  • With: David Harbour, Jahi Winston, Tig Notaro, Erica Ash, Jennifer Coolidge, Anthony Mackie, Faith Ford, Niles Fitch, Isabella Russo, Steve Coulter.

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We Have A Ghost is a Surprisingly Twisty Family Thriller

E.T. meets Beetlejuice in this soon-to-be Netflix classic.

movie reviews we have a ghost

If there’s a white whale of filmmaking, it’s probably the elusive family adventure movie: something tame enough for parents to feel comfortable showing their kids, but exciting enough to keep the adults from dismissing it as a “kids movie.” Over decades of experimenting, this kind of story usually takes the form of a high-stakes adventure involving some nondescript bad guy going after a protagonist who happens to be a kid. From Jumanji to Ms. Marvel , this formula has proven to work.

With We Have A Ghost , Freaky and Happy Death Day director Christopher Landon takes his shot at this timeless tale, and result is surprisingly great. It may be a new take on an old formula, but it only rarely lets that show.

We Have A Ghost, based on the short story “Ernest” by Geoff Manaugh, follows the Presley family: down-on-his-luck Frank (Anthony Mackie), his wife Melanie (Erica Ash), and their two kids, vain Fulton and his younger brother Kevin. Kevin, a musical prodigy, isn’t thrilled with his family moving into a creepy Victorian house in the suburbs, even if they got it for cheap.

That changes when a trip to the unusually cold attic reveals a ghost: a mute dadbodded-man (David Harbour) with a wicked combover wearing a bowling shirt embroidered with the name “Ernest.” Kevin, like any good Gen-Z protagonist, laughs and pulls out his phone.

What follows almost feels like an episode of Black Mirror : when the rest of the family finds out about Ernest, a video of him quickly goes viral, and Frank gets caught up in the fame. But Kevin’s quest to help Ernest remember who he was and how he died clashes with Frank’s quest for glory and a paranormal pscyhologist’s (Tig Notaro) search for answers.

We Have a Ghost Netflix Review

Anthony Mackie as Frank and Jennifer Coolidge as “West Bay Medium” Judy Romano in We Have A Ghost .

The first half of the film is very by-the-book — there’s a sensitive kid, his supernatural best friend, his annoying older brother, his parents who don’t understand, and a quirky neighbor girl who updates the trope for Generation Z. There are some great comedic set-pieces — Jennifer Coolidge makes a cameo as the “West Bay Medium,” an elaborately wigged psychic whom Kevin asks Ernest to scare away.

He succeeds in a truly gruesome manner, forcing his face to melt off à la Indiana Jones . Thank goodness the visual effects used to bring Ernest to life are only passable, or that sequence would have pushed the film’s PG-13 rating.

In the second half of the movie, the Beetlejuice influences make way for the high-stakes “kids vs. the government” influences of E.T. , following Kevin, his neighbor Joy (Isabella Russo) and Ernest on a road trip where they must avoid not only the government agents who want to capture Ernest but also the effects of social media. Essentially, Ernest gets “Milkshake Duck” -ed — after the world learns he presumedly kidnapped Kevin and Joy, he’s wanted, dead or alive (but definitely dead.) This leads to sneaky heists, car chases, and even some teenage romance.

It’s in the third act that We Have A Ghost finally proves itself as a new classic — an old school bait-and-switch plot that reveals twist after twist. In a movie like this, figuring out who should be the bad guy should be easy. But writer/director Christopher Landon lets his horror roots shine with shifting loyalties that lead viewers to question who they can even trust. But rest assured, there’s a happily ever after in the end.

We Have a Ghost Netflix Review

Joy, Kevin, and Ernest take a joyride on the run from the government.

There’s one question that ripples throughout We Have A Ghost : Who is this for? It’s rated PG-13, but there are some truly adult themes like alcoholism, murder, and childhood abandonment. Add on top of that some brutal gore and violence, and it’s hard to see this becoming a feel-good family favorite. But it’s important to remember this movie’s predecessors deal with some truly dark themes — this is the kind of movie that sticks with a kid for the better. It’s not enough to give nightmares, but just enough to make it feel like a “grown-up movie.”

And for grown-ups, there’s more than enough to be interested in. Anthony Mackie has a stellar monologue as Frank, reckoning with what becoming a father means, and how he is dealing with his own inferiority complex. It’s a movie about Generation Z (Ernest even sparks his own TikTok challenge) but it’s also about how millennials are grappling with the fact there’s now a generation beneath them and how they can avoid the mistakes of the past.

We Have A Ghost is haunted by the legacies of similar movies, but it finds a way to stay relevant by leaning on not only the director’s horror sensibilities but also the maturity of a 2023 audience. It’s bound to be countless kids’ E.T. , Indiana Jones , or Beetlejuice — the first movie they were allowed to watch that genuinely scared them in an entertaining way.

We Have A Ghost premieres February 24, 2023 on Netflix.

This article was originally published on Feb. 24, 2023

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We have a ghost review: viral haunting story best when played for laughs.

Three extended sequences stand out for their execution and comic timing, and will surely be what people take with them from the viewing experience.

In his most recent tenure at Blumhouse, writer-director Christopher Landon showed a talent for making movies fun. His horror-comedies Happy Death Day and Freaky got a lot of mileage out of their (sub)genre-mashing conceits, but the self-awareness was tempered with a lack of self-seriousness, eschewing parody or satire for something purely playful and appreciative. We Have a Ghost , Landon's new Netflix adaptation of Geoff Manaugh's short story "Ernest," accentuates the strengths and weakness of his work. In place of a slasher sensibility, We Have a Ghost chases an Amblin-esque sense of spooky adventure, at times very successfully. The funnier it lets itself be, the better it is; the forays into heartfelt drama are less convincing. Landon's latest will be best remembered for its multiple laugh-out-loud set pieces, and with the craftsmanship and performances on display, viewers will likely be willing to forgive its less-impactful stretches.

After a slick bit of setup shows the former occupants fleeing in terror one year prior, We Have a Ghost opens with the Presley family touring their potential new home. Even with the house's fixer-upper status, the low price tag worries them, but not in the financial position to ask too many questions, they sign on the dotted line. Soon after, Kevin (Jahi Winston), the more reserved of the two sons, discovers the reason for the discount — their new home is haunted.

Related: Knock At The Cabin Review: Shyamalan Delivers Thought-Provoking, Intense Horror

The ghost, a middle-aged white man whose embroidered bowling shirt identifies him as Ernest (David Harbour), unleashes his ol' boo routine on the teenager in the attic. Kevin, amused, films it on his phone. While he sets out to understand his undead cohabitant, his father Frank (Anthony Mackie) sees Kevin's footage as his next get-rich-quick scheme (but for real this time). He uploads it to YouTube, and Ernest ultimately goes viral, catching far more attention than is good for the Presleys.

What's most immediately striking about We Have a Ghost is its tone. In some ways, Landon's film is very much speaking to today, sporting an online sense of humor and a Black protagonist who feels firmly rooted in this generation of teens. In other ways, it is so clearly a throwback to a certain '80s and '90s vibe, with echoes of movies like E.T. , Gremlins , Beetlejuice , and Casper, to the point that viewers might catch themselves wondering when this takes place even after they've seen references to TikTok.

The way it feels simultaneously of its time and out of time works in its favor. Had the filmmakers gone the full-nostalgia route and, say, set We Have a Ghost in the 1980s, it would have fallen in the trap of placing itself in constant comparison with the movies they clearly admire. Instead, viewers are encouraged to see this film as in conversation with that past, and its choice of perspective feels pointed in this context — the subtext of today's conversations around gender and masculinity, in particular, add juice to the well-worn parent-and-child-can't-relate conflict.

Also drawn from that era is a real willingness to have fun with effects, and the first half especially plays with Ernest's CGI in some very creative ways, as the rules of his ghostliness are fleshed out. He isn't corporeal, but, like in Ghost, can will himself to interact with the physical world. He can turn invisible, and after learning from some of today's horror films, can control his physical appearance in other, hilariously ghoulish ways. Three extended sequences — two action-y chases and one misbegotten TV segment for Jennifer Coolidge's celebrity medium — stand out for their execution and comic timing, and will be what most people take with them from the viewing experience.

Ernest also can't speak, outside some moans and groans, which makes Harbour's casting crucial to We Have a Ghost's success. Using just his physicality and expression, he must sell the character and his relationship with Kevin without upstaging the lead, and he succeeds quite remarkably. Winston and Mackie are also worth singling out, particularly in their scenes together, when the son's lack of respect for his father can be felt in a way that adds emotional charge to their exchanges.

Those moments, however, are somewhat anomalous when compared to the whole. When the narrative is powered by Kevin's desire to foil Frank's Ernest-based YouTube enterprise, it is propulsive and engaging, but this strand gradually cedes to a race to dig up Ernest's past before the CIA-adjacent paranormal researcher Dr. Leslie Monroe (Tig Notaro) can catch up with them. The more We Have a Ghost makes plays for heart, the looser its grip on the audience's attention becomes.

This is all the more noticeable in the final act, which makes a misguided attempt to up the stakes with one last horror-inflected action sequence before settling into its version of an " I'll be right here "-type coda. This stretch doesn't go as far as to undo the goodwill the film has generated, though, and We Have a Ghost remains a worthy choice for family movie night. But it does suggest that Landon, who is currently set to direct the Arachnophobia remake , is still working out how best to mine this particular storytelling vein. If the path from Happy Death Day to Freaky is any indication, this film could end up looking in retrospect like a stepping stone to crafting even more finely tuned fun the next time around.

More: Disquiet Review: Lifeless Thriller Never Recovers From Its Poor Script

We Have a Ghost is available to stream on Netflix beginning February 24. The film is 126 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for language, some sexual/suggestive references and violence.

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‘We Have a Ghost’ Is the New #1 Flick on Netflix (and of Course It Stars Jennifer Coolidge)

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*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

Anyone who has seen ET: The Extra-Terrestrial , will notice some clear parallels in Netflix 's new comedy horror, We Have a Ghost . You'll recall that the '80s classic revolves around a boy who tries to help his new friend—a stranded alien—return home before government agents get to them. Similarly, in Netflix's comedy horror, Kevin (Jahi Di'Allo Winston) befriends a ghost named Ernest ( David Harbour ), who has been haunting his new home. As he tries to help Ernest cross over, however, the CIA intervenes. And guys, this isn't even half the story.

We Have a Ghost only just premiered on Netflix on Feb. 24, and it quickly jumped into the #1 spot on Netflix's list of most-watched films, where it is currently sitting above films like The Strays , The Woman King and Your Place or Mine .

With regards to the plot, just imagine the familiar storyline of a clueless family moving into a haunted home, but with a modernized twist. While Kevin is determined to help Ernest, his father (played brilliantly by Anthony Mackie) tries to profit off of the ghost, so there's a viral YouTube video, a ghost-inspired TikTok challenge , an Ernest segment on Dr. Phil and a swarm of obsessive fans and reporters at their home.

Directed by Christopher Landon, who's known for titles like Happy Death Day 2U and Freaky , the movie shows plenty of promise due to strong performances—including an excellent cameo by Jennifer Coolidge . But because there is so much going on, it stretches on for way too long (two hours and seven minutes, to be exact). And despite efforts to seamlessly blend different genres together, this only makes it harder to get the message and pinpoint the movie's overall tone.

we have a ghost 2

Fortunately, the amount of star power in this film goes a very long way. Harbour, who plays the famous ghost, can barely utter a word, but his facial expressions speak volumes. Meanwhile, Mackie perfectly embodies the crafty patriarch and Coolidge, who plays a popular Internet medium Judy Romano, dominates every scene that she's in, making viewers wish that she had more screen-time. Tig Notaro stands out as a talented paranormal scientist who deals with a guilty conscience when she teams up with the CIA. And as for Winston, he delivers a solid performance as teen outsider Kevin, although there are moments when his serious portrayal feels a bit out of place in more light-hearted and goofy moments.

we have a ghost 1

It's more than enough to keep viewers occupied.

Of course, this is not to say that the movie isn't entertaining. While it's not at all scary, it does boast a few laugh-out-loud moments and touch on timely themes.

we have a ghost 4

We Have a Ghost has a lot going for it, including a strong cast, an intriguing plot and exciting action sequences. The movie does feel a bit chaotic which can be distracting and its two-hour runtime could have been cut down. But, once again, thank goodness for Jennifer Coolidge.

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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘We Have a Ghost’ on Netflix, a Patience-Taxing Genre Mash Starring David Harbour as a Mute Ghost

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We Have a Ghost (now on Netflix) is some serious capital-C Content, a 127-minute supernatural-horror-action-family-comedy anchored by Stranger Things guy David Harbour, Marvel guy Anthony Mackie and too-talented-for-this-junk young guy Jahi Di’Allo Winston (who was extraordinary in little-seen 2020 drama Charm City Kings ). The film is veteran director Christopher Landon’s follow-up to another, leaner, smarter, funnier genre mashup, 2020’s Freaky , which amused us in all the ways that We Have a Ghost doesn’t. Because what we have here is something that lures our cynicism from its miserable and dingy little corner: This movie is a tedious mess that nevertheless seems destined to be no. 1 on Netflix for a week or two.


The Gist: The previous owners ran screaming from the house, sped off in their minivan and never looked back. Now, ONE YEAR LATER, a caricature of a real estate agent gives the Presley family a tour of the place. The yard is a tangle of weeds, the siding is filthy and the cobwebs inside indicate that there had to have been 10,000 spiders in there working overtime. Looks more like 10, maybe 15 years of dilapidation, but never mind, it’s a fixer-upper, and the Presleys are up for it. Dad Frank (Mackie) and mom Melanie (Erica Ash) are sold on the place, but their teenage sons Kevin (Winston) and Fulton (Niles Fitch) aren’t convinced. The place is old and “historical” and looks reasonably sized on the outside but once you get inside, it’s cavernous, with giant staircases, high high ceilings and a massive attic. I’m not sure how physics work in this particular reality, but they seem a bit warped compared to our true physics.

Of course, the legit nature and properties of matter and energy are inevitably upended in a movie about ghosts, which for damn sure aren’t real, so let’s move on from our hang-ups of science and logic. Fresh off a verbal tussle with Frank – “How many fresh starts are we at now, Dad?” – Kevin ventures up to the attic and meets Ernest (Harbour), the resident poltergeist. Ernest, an aging fella wearing a terrible, greasy combover and a yellow-cab-yellow bowling shirt, tries to scare the kid, but it doesn’t work. Kevin’s unflappable, and would rather make friends with the guy. Former guy? Thing? Let’s just say he’s a guy. And he’s a nice guy once you get to know him. At this point, it’s crucial that we learn the movie’s Ghost Rules: Ernest can walk through walls and stuff and when you try to touch him, whoosh, you can’t. But he can touch you if he wants, or sit on a chair, so he can solidify at will. He can moan and groan, but can’t talk, a crucial plot point, because if he could explain what happened to him, most of the plot of the movie wouldn’t happen at all. Oh, and he also has no memory of what happened to him, so I guess they could’ve let poor David Harbour talk in this movie after all, since it seems pretty silly that he doesn’t?

David Harbour and Jennifer Coolidge

Jennifer Coolidge Wanted David Harbour To Choke Her “Harder” During ‘We Have A Ghost’ Scenes

And oh, there’s so much plot here. Kevin shoots a video of Ernest and he soon becomes – you may sigh deeply here – a viral internet sensation. The world is convinced the ghost is real and not fake, and Frank wants to exploit the living frick out of the situation by monetizing their internet content, going on talk shows and inviting famous supernatural medium Judy Romano (Jennifer Coolidge) over to film an episode of her TV show. Press and fans camp out on the sidewalk. Meanwhile, ghost story author and CIA agent Dr. Leslie Monroe (Tig Notaro) de-mothballs the U.S. gov’s X-Files-ish program, hoping to capture Ernest and bring him in to do whatever with him, probably turn him into a weapon to fight the Commies or something. None of this sits well with Kevin and his new friend Joy (Isabella Russo), the goth-ish trombonist computer-hacker big-personality love-interest girl next door; they just want to know why Ernest is stuck here on this mortal plane, so they get to digging and road-tripping and being chased by inept cops, stuff like that. Will Ernest find closure? Will the Presley family mend their rifts? Will we give a damn about any of it? Sure, yes and probably not, in that order.

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Ghost , Ghostbusters and The X-Files all get run through this cliche machine. 

Performance Worth Watching: Winston finds the heart of this story – a heart that’s absolutely buried in unnecessary junk – and carries it. He’s the chemical catalyst for thoughtful interactions with Harbour and Russo, and is the movie’s strongest redeeming quality (among far too many non-redeeming ones).   

Memorable Dialogue: Melanie tries to subvert the fatal flaw of the Amityville Horror protagonists: “We are NOT gonna be like every stupid White family in every horror film! We’re leaving!”

Sex and Skin: None.

Our Take: We Have a Ghost is quite the bloated sack of ectoplasm. It mooshes together the stuff of supernatural yukfests, awkward teen rom-coms, heavy family melodramas, road comedies with local yokels and gross motel rooms, car-chasey action-comedies, amnesiac mysteries and cheeky social satires. The only thing holding it all together is gooey-gluey sentimental drip which, despite Winston’s attempts to elevate it with his charisma, has all the appeal of sticking your face in a big jar of rubber cement and inhaling. All you do is get dizzy and regret your decision.

The too-muchness of this movie is its undoing. The predictably zesty Coolidge cameo enlivens the proceedings but feels unnecessary, as if satirizing social media frenzies, federal authoritarian meddling and breathless media scrums wasn’t enough, so Landon – who also wrote the screenplay – decides to spoof basic-cable reality-TV junk too. Mackie’s character is a flimsy irritant and we get so sick of his ass, you’ll wish the story deployed some single-mom cliches instead. And the product placement is egregious – if you need a chain organization to aid you with your tax prep, boy, does this movie have a recommendation for you!

The film is chock-full of characters who act like Movie People – you know, they’re either plot devices or sources of comedy. (Comedy that rarely hits its mark, mind you.) The exception is Winston’s thoughtful characterization of Kevin, a sensitive kid who’s empathetic rather than fearful in unusual situations. That’s a nice example to set for younger viewers. But Landon mires Kevin’s story in patience-taxing wackiness and heavily sugared earnestness, and resolves this conglomeration of subplots in the stupidest manner possible. Boo? Yes, boo.

Our Call: SKIP IT. We Have a Ghost is really really dumb, and is destined to be huge on Netflix.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Should You Watch ‘We Have a Ghost’? Our Review of Netflix’s New Comedy

Our PLAY, PAUSE, OR STOP? review of David Harbour's new movie, We Have a Ghost.

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The paranormal family adventure film, We Have A Ghost , is now streaming, but should you give it a watch?.

Based on the short story “Ernest” by Geoff Manaugh , We Have A Ghost is a mash-up of a ghost story mixed with elements of mystery, adventure, and family friendly comedy.

Written and directed by Freaky & Happy Death Day creator Christopher Landon, the film centers around the Presley family that has recently bought a new home on the cheap that may have a reason for its bargain basement price. In checking out the attic of their house, the youngest son Kevin (Jahi Winston) soon discovers a moaning, flailing ghost in the form of Ernest ( Stranger Things David Harbour). Completely unfazed by his presence, Kevin forms a relationship with Ernest and tries to figure out why he may be stuck in this house instead of crossing over to the other side.

While Kevin’s intentions with Ernest may be more pure of heart, his father Frank (The Avengers Anthony Mackie) & his brother Fulton ( This Is Us star Niles Fitch) seem to have different motives for their paranormal roommate. After Kevin films his first interaction with Ernest and sends it to his Dad, his father decides to post these interactions online to try to become internet sensations. This draws all forms of attention to the Presleys and Ernest; from devoted fans who camp out on the family’s front lawn to more sinister plans from members of the CIA who wish to capture Ernest for their own interests. Toss in interactions with psychic mediums & people from Ernest’s past and you get one overstuffed, messy “shouldn’t be 2 hours long” film from a writer/director who has done MUCH better work.

We have seen all kinds of ghost story films over the years. Most of them tend to have a territorial & terrifying presence that looks to scare the home’s latest inhabitants away to keep their home to themselves for eternity. Rarely, but often enough, you get a friendlier entity that might gently ask you to leave or maybe even develop a relationship with its new roomies.

Erica Ash as Melanie Niles Fitch as Fulton We Have A Ghost

Picture courtesy of Netflix

We Have A Ghost follows more of the latter as the family embraces (and exploits) Ernest even though he cannot talk, cannot remember anything from his past, tries to scare them away in the early encounters, and has no obvious connection to them at all.

Casper is a popular example of a friendly ghost of course. He is exceptionally friendly in spite of his terrible ghost uncles and he is the ghost of a young boy so it makes sense when he falls for and befriends the young daughter of an afterlife therapist.

This film struck me as being closer in, pardon the phrasing, “spirit” with the relationship between Lydia and recently deceased couple Adam & Barbara in Tim Burton’s dark comedy classic Beetlejuice, except nowhere near the quality. Lydia, a goth-like teenager who admits to being “strange and usual” initially encounters Adam & Barbara in a similar more unamused and undaunted, but quickly becomes intrigued with them and befriends them as she has read their handbook for the recently deceased and finds their situation fascinating even if they don’t want her family to stick around.

Her relationship with them seems completely plausible due to Lydia’s quirky personality, fascination with death, and isolation in a new home with parents that don’t understand her and no friends in sight.

As for this film, the Kevin and Ernest relationship makes very little sense from the start; mostly because we don’t know much about either of them and the little we do know doesn’t match up in any way to continue on with the mystery of Ernest’s past and his inability to cross over to the other side. Sure, Kevin is a sad teenager who moves into a new place, but he also seems to have a solid relationship with his mother & older brother and instantly makes friends with the teen girl next door, Joy (Isabella Russo). He has no paranormal fascinations and instead has a music nerd vibe that quickly goes away as the film goes on. He is also not very personable and would seem reluctant to befriend anyone especially a ghost that doesn’t appear more human like Adam & Barbara from Beetlejuice. As for Ernest, he can’t express himself very well and cannot utter anything more than a moan or groan.

Anthony Mackie as Frank, Jennifer Coolidge as Judy Romano in We Have A Ghost. Cr. Scott Saltzman/Netflix © 2022

Anthony Mackie as Frank, Jennifer Coolidge as Judy Romano in We Have A Ghost. Cr. Scott Saltzman/Netflix © 2022

He is older and doesn’t appear to have any commonalities that would entice Kevin in any way. He doesn’t appear to be a father figure when his own father seems to be a scheming failure most of the time, so he doesn’t fill a need there. Furthermore, it would make more sense for him to tell his family about Ernest and try to convince them to not live in this new place that he referred to as a “dump” than actually try to help Ernest figure out why he is stuck. This is the foundation for the film and it is extremely flawed.

While this vital character chemistry falls flat, I think the biggest problem with the film is the excessive bloat and almost 2-hour runtime. Several scenes seem extraneous and certain B plots don’t seem necessary.

Unfortunately for these normally funny character actors, I got nothing from the “Paranormal psychologist-turned CIA Agent-turned disgrace-turned author who gets a shot at redemption” character arc from hilarious stand-up comedian Tig Notaro. Why do we care about the CIA and their defunct ghost studies program? Why do we care about her motives? We have to devote that time to Ernest because we don’t know anything about him. We already have plenty of distractions with the social media element and the eventual villain that presents late in the story. This whole thing seemed very redundant and superfluous. We also have Jennifer Coolidge as a Medium who seems to not have the ability nor the want to try to conjure Ernest at their home even though she brought her show to them.

These several minutes long scenes do nothing but try to pad the laughs in a movie that had enough from the road adventures to come and could easily have been cut from the film. I’m not saying the film would be entirely fixed by trimming off 20 minutes, but it would fly by much faster and become much more focused if it did.

we have a ghost screen 2

The positives from this movie come mostly in the redemption arc for Ernest and the arrival of the real villain in this story, albeit far too late for a truly solid impact. Once we get Ernest out of the house, the film seems to move much better and deliver some more enjoyable and interesting material.

The car chase with a playful Ernest shifting between cop cars is some of the most fun in the whole movie, and the mystery element of a potentially disastrous discovery about Ernest’s past leading to a satisfying end to right the wrongs that was thrust upon at the time of his death is the most intriguing piece of the whole story. It makes me wonder how much of this script is from the short story and how much was added to beef up the page count and add some laughs.

If this film has any success, it would likely be due to the full commitment of David Harbour to the character of Ernest. Playing a mute ghost who has to create sympathy and humor with only looks and pratfalls sounds daunting, but Harbour pulls it off as good as you could hope if you’re Christopher Landon. Harbour capitalizes on the fatherly charm he exudes as Hopper in Stranger Things and parlays that energy into tricking us into thinking he had to be a good father even though we had no evidence for far too long in this story.

Overall, We Have A Ghost commits the ultimate cinematic sin of trying way too hard and adding way too many characters & subplots that ultimately stray away from the heart of its story. Wasted efforts from a star-studded cast couldn’t save the film from itself and could not entertain as much as I had hoped.

What We Have a Ghost on Netflix If You Like

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MVP of We Have a Ghost

Isabella Russo as Joy Yoshino.

While not having the flashiest of resumes next to her MCU & “Stranger Things” alums, Isabella Russo really seemed to pop when given the chance in this film.

Playing the role of quirky friend, love interest, and brilliant sidekick, Isabella mustered enough presence and range to prove that she can hang or even outpace her leads. For a side character, she seemed to have just as much, if not more, depth than Kevin did in a more important role.

Isabella Russo as Joy Yoshino We Have a Ghost

Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix

Play, Pause or Stop We Have a Ghost

The notable stars involved are not always front and center and the gifted writer/director Christopher Landon seems off his game in this lackluster and often baffling family romp.

Andrew Morgan is a film critic & podcaster with 20 years of experience on the sets & offices of film & television. Current podcast host of the entertainment review show, Recent Activity. He lives in the Northeast of the United States.

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We Have A Ghost Review

We Have A Ghost

24 Feb 2023

We Have A Ghost

In the last few years, Christopher Landon has quietly but consistently forged his own little horror-comedy cottage industry; with the likes of  Happy Death Day  and  Scout’s Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse , Landon has taken up the mantle that the likes of Joe Dante or Ivan Reitman had in the ‘80s, lending this under-served subgenre his own 21st century sensibilities and style.

We Have A Ghost continues the hot streak, and while this one skews a bit more YA or PG-13 than his earlier, blood-splattered work — good-heartedness here replaces the gore of his last film, the superb slasher body-swap  Freaky  — it remains a spooky, crowd pleasing treat: less  Ghostbusters , more  Ghost-befrienders .

movie reviews we have a ghost

Newcomer Jahi Di'Allo Winston ( Queen And Slim ) puts in a winning performance as our young hero, a Gen-Z-er who cannily undercuts the usual horror tropes of this kind of ghost story: rather than screaming, his first reaction to witness a phantom ghoul is to a) offer an incredulous laugh, b) get his phone out and film it, and c) go immediately viral, inspiring hashtags, conspiracy theories and TikTok challenges.

This is mostly an earnest, thoughtful genre piece, less interested in scares and more interested in cares.

For the ghost’s part, David Harbour ’s grumpy frustration at his standard-issue ‘wooooo’-ing rendered ineffective is very funny. As Ernest, Harbour puts in a wordless performance worthy of silent film, working purely via body language and facial expression. He manages to be both Chaplin-esque funny and winningly warm, utilising to full effect the gentle facial expressions that made Chief Hopper a father figure to millions.

Like any Landon joint, in fact, it’s stuffed with great performances — Anthony Mackie is a great deadbeat dad, desperate for a win; while Jennifer Coolidge puts in a typically camp and deranged cameo as Judy Romano, ‘The West Bay Medium’. And in the Landon tradition, there are knowing lines for horror fans, too (“We are not going to be like every stupid white family in every horror movie,” insists Erica Ash’s obstinate mother).

But that Extremely Online, irony-soaked wit is tempered here: this is mostly an earnest, thoughtful genre piece, less interested in scares and more interested in cares. It’s a film ultimately about families, and seems to be designed to be watched by them too (at least, families with teenage kids) — a ghost story that nearly everyone can enjoy.

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Netflix's We Have a Ghost is a funny and charming retelling of a familiar story

And we're here for it!

preview for We Have a Ghost - Official Trailer - (Netflix)

In We Have a Ghost , father Frank ( Anthony Mackie ) moves his family to a new house in the Illinois suburbs but his youngest son Kevin ( Jahi Di'Allo Winston ), an introverted misfit in his own family, soon discovers a ghost living in their attic. Ernest (David Harbour) seems harmless, and after Frank captures Ernest on video, the family become internet famous.

However, as Kevin and his friend Joy (Isabella Russo) help Ernest discover the truth about Ernest's past – and his death – they all become a target of the CIA's ghostbusting agent (Tig Notaro). The parallels to ET are obvious – or perhaps to Casper , given Ernest's spectral form.

jahi diallo, isabella russo, david harbour, we have a ghost

However, We Have a Ghost does a solid job of not retreading every emotional beat that we've seen before. Instead, it spends time letting us get to know Kevin and his family – his tenuously loving relationship with his older brother Fulton (Niles Fitch) and his mother Erica Ash, as well as his neighbour Joy.

We get snippets of the family's uneven past without maudlin montages set to morosely manipulative music. Ernest's comedy is just on the right side of slapstick to be sweet and funny, not annoying.

In particular, it helps that Winston brings a nuance of pathos and anger to Kevin, blending it into the perfect embodiment of that strange combination of teenage malaise and passion that makes him unpredictable and brave.

erica ash niles fitch , jahi winston,we have a ghost

As Ernest, Harbour is fun to watch – the character itself, a ghost with amnesia, means there isn't much to empathise with but it is Ernest's relationship to Kevin, and how it impacts the rest of the family that matters.

There is the requisite shoe-horning-in of teenage 'woke' dialogue, via Russo's Joy, but it's on the right side of sufferable and you get the sense that it is something Joy might naturally say. For anyone navigating grief, or a damaged father/child relationship, We Have a Ghost will probably make you cry but unlike Ghostbusters , the movie actually earns its more muted emotional payoff.

anthony mackie , jennifer coolidge, we have a ghost

And then there's the It woman of the century, Jennifer Coolidge , in a cameo role as a TV medium. She only has a few moments of screen time, but proves once again that she is a scene-stealer.

We Have a Ghost is based on a short story called Ernest , and while short stories stretched to feature-length films often feel thin, the movie adaptation of this story manages to fill its just-over-two-hour runtime. As with so many movies that dabble in the paranormal, the key is not to think too critically about the 'plot holes' and suspension of disbelief necessary to make the film work – it simply does.

While We Have a Ghost may not soar to the heights of ET in the cultural zeitgeist, it's watchable and entertaining and should have a place in the canon of teens with cute sidekicks who accomplish incredible things.

We Have a Ghost is out now on Netflix .

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Gabriella Geisinger is a freelance journalist and film critic, and was previously Deputy Movies Editor at Digital Spy. She loves Star Wars , coming-of-age stories, thrillers , and true crime. A born and raised New Yorker, she also loves coffee and the colour black, obviously.

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movie reviews we have a ghost

  • DVD & Streaming

We Have a Ghost

  • Action/Adventure , Comedy

Content Caution

We Have a Ghost 2023 movie

In Theaters

  • Jahi Winston as Kevin Presley; David Harbour as Ernest; Anthony Mackie as Frank Presley; Erica Ash as Melanie Presley; Niles Fitch as Fulton Presley; Isabella Russo as Joy Yoshino; Tig Notaro as Dr. Leslie Monroe; Tom Bower as Ernest Scheller; Sean Boyd as Young Ernest Scheller; Steve Coulter as Arnold Schipley; Jennifer Coolidge as Judy Romano

Home Release Date

  • February 24, 2023
  • Christopher Landon


Movie review.

Kevin Presley hasn’t felt connected to his dad, Frank, in years. They used to be best buds. But as Kevin got older, he started to realize that Frank wasn’t quite the hero he used to believe.

Frank has moved the family around quite a bit, always chasing the next dream. Unfortunately, many of those dreams have turned into nightmares (the family lost a lot after falling victim to a pyramid scheme).

Kevin expects that Frank’s latest venture will turn out the same, that his mom will get hurt again and that the family will wind up moving … again.

But then something supernatural happens.

As it turns out, the reason the Presley’s new home was so cheap is because … it’s haunted .

All the previous tenants have fled. And since it’s not technically required to disclose ghosts in real estate listings, the Presleys are stuck with Ernest as their undead house guest.

But Ernest, despite his best efforts to frighten the family off, isn’t a mean ghost, just one who wants his privacy. So Kevin is determined to help him find closure and “cross over.”

Frank, however, sees Ernest as an opportunity . After posting videos of Ernest online, they go viral, and Frank starts negotiating deals with sponsors to earn a lot of money.

But his desire to keep Ernest around only hurts his son, who wants to do the right thing. Moreover, the videos alert the government to Ernest’s presence.

And it just so happens that the CIA has their own dastardly plans for the ghost.

Positive Elements

Kevin’s relationship with his parents—especially his dad—is strained. He often rolls his eyes and talks back to his dad, and Frank often responds in anger. Kevin says that he lost respect for his dad after watching his mom (and by extension, Kevin and his brother, as well) get hurt by Frank’s lies and broken promises.

Frank, for his part, knows that he’s let his family down and feels badly about it. The constant moving around from town to town, job to job is his attempt to figure out who he is so he can finally fulfill his true dream of being the best father he can be.

The father-son relationship starts to mend after Frank tells Kevin that he’s proud Kevin chose to help Ernest rather than exploit him. And he apologizes for taking advantage of the situation. The two of them reconcile further after Kevin witnesses Frank’s actions to save Ernest and their family from harm. He shows respect to his dad, knowing that Frank truly does love him and wants to protect him. Frank, in turn, learns to control his hot-headedness and works to provide a stable future for his family.

After realizing that Kevin wants to help him, Ernest does his best to help Kevin as well, silently encouraging Kevin to work things out with his dad.

Frank and his wife, Melanie, don’t always get along. They bicker about their children, their house and Frank’s career. But they also work through those arguments. And the fact that they have stuck together despite falling on hard times multiple times shows that they love and support each other through thick and thin.

Kevin’s older brother, Fulton, understandably chastises his younger brother when he’s rude to their parents. Elsewhere, Fulton is punished by having his phone taken away after his mom learns he made Kevin walk to school instead of driving him.

A family is reunited after many years apart.

Spiritual Elements

Ernest is a ghost, albeit a friendly one. But his mere presence brings up a lot of questions about the afterlife. Kevin and his family don’t delve too deeply into it. Kevin tries to help Ernest “move on,” but he also admits he doesn’t know to what.

Ernest’s supernatural powers allow him to move through solid objects, turn invisible and manipulate his appearance. (It also seems he has some telekinetic ability.) In different scenes, he causes lights to flicker and even makes candlelight become a fiery inferno. This, one scientist explains, is because ghosts aren’t made of matter, but energy , allowing them to control other forms of energy. His extremely cold temperature also causes rooms to go cold when he enters them.

Kevin learns online that most spectral entities have been “displaced by trauma.” Combined with Ernest’s memory loss—a self-defense mechanism against trauma—Kevin suspects that Ernest’s death was so disturbing that Ernest blocked out all memory of it and his life before.

The Presley family convinces a television medium to come to the house to film an episode of her show. (And the sequence that follows reveals her to be a fraud.) A woman justifies murder because she thought it was a sign from God.

Joy, Kevin’s neighbor who helps him and Ernest on their journey, says she’s an atheist and questions Ernest’s existence at first. A woman does yoga. A fan of Ernest’s camps outside the Presley home dressed as Jesus Christ. A frightened woman begins praying when she sees Ernest. There’s a reference to “paranormal psychology” being “woo-woo science.” A woman compares her career to a “sacrificial lamb.” We see a picture of a man in a devil costume. There are two honest exclamations of “Thank God!”

Sexual Content

When Ernest goes viral, people take to social media in droves. Many express that they have crushes on Ernest. One girl says she had a dream he impregnated her. Other people try to normalize “ghost love.” Someone compares Ernest to a stripper. (In an unrelated scene, a man claims to be haunted by a homosexual ghost.) Someone else speculates whether ghosts have genitals.

Kevin’s older brother, Fulton, is obsessed with looking good and hooking up. He swipes through pictures of girls on Tinder, often calling them “nasty” if he doesn’t like them. (And some of these pictures show girls in swimsuits in suggestive poses.) He lifts his shirt to take pictures of his abdominal muscles. And we see him relaxing by the pool during a video chat.

Joy enters a boys’ bathroom to speak to Kevin privately. A boy urinating says she can’t be in there, and she claims “gender norms” are stupid. Seconds later she makes a joking comment about having male genitals. (There’s no indication that Joy is transgender, she simply doesn’t agree with male/female identification standards.)

Kevin and Joy decide to share the one clean bed in a motel room. Joy jokingly asks Kevin not to “dry hump” her while they rest. During this exchange, the sensual pottery scene from the film Ghost awkwardly shows up while they’re flipping through TV channels. Ernest encourages Kevin to make a move. When they wake the next morning (above the covers, fully clothed), Kevin’s hand is draped on Joy’s waist, though there’s a good foot between their bodies.

Two teens share a kiss. They are interrupted by the boy’s parents who jokingly tell them to continue.

A woman asks if her husband and son are watching “dirty videos.” We hear that Frank used to peddle “male enhancement pills.” A woman flirts with Frank. We see a shirtless man getting a tattoo.

Violent Content

When a television medium refuses to believe that Ernest is real, the irate ghost terrorizes her crew, destroying parts of the Presley home in the process. He contorts his body, turning his head completely around and snapping multiple bones (you know, if he wasn’t a spectral being and actually had bones). Finally, he makes a corporeal, skinless arm pop out of his mouth like a tongue to choke the medium. This convinces her he’s real and she leaps out a glass window in fear (she’s OK since they’re on the first floor).

Kevin, Joy and Ernest flee the state, looking for answers to Ernest’s past. When two sheriffs find them, they treat Kevin and Joy like criminals, even though the official report stated they had been kidnapped. One officer tells Kevin to lay on the ground and to put his hands on his head. He then threatens Kevin, but before he can act, Ernest swipes his gun and points it at the man’s head. Ernest removes the gun’s bullets and hands it back to the officer. Meanwhile, the other sheriff threatens to shoot Kevin as he leaves the building. Joy saves him by kicking the man in the groin and then kicking his gun away from his hands.

A car chase ensues between the police and the kids. Ernest helps them by jumping into cop cars and causing them to crash. (In one instance, he takes the driver’s gun and shoots the engine.) Kevin drives through a busy intersection and gets clipped by a semi, but they are all OK. The officer pursuing him crashes headlong into the semi, but he is also OK, chasing after them on foot.

A woman enters an armory, taking out special guns that can incapacitate a ghost. The guns are then used on Ernest, causing him great pain. Later on, several humans are hit with the guns, which blasts them through the air. Federal agents break down the doors of several houses. The CIA says that they can do bad things to Ernest since he’s technically already dead.

We hear that a man fatally, though accidentally, shot himself in the face. Kevin says that his family got banned from a bowling alley after his dad got into a fistfight with someone there.

After a video shows Ernest running through a wall, many people on social media instigate the “Ernest Challenge,” which involves, as you might expect, people running into walls (and several people get hurt doing this). Fulton hits Kevin in the head with an orange (and Kevin is upset that their mom is more worried about the fruit than her son). A woman is bodily escorted from a building. Ernest jokingly pretends to shoot himself with a finger gun. A woman says she would rather swallow razor blades and chase them with lemon juice than give information to the feds.

We hear a woman died in childbirth. Someone speculates that a man may have killed himself (though he didn’t).

[ Note: The rest of this section contains spoilers. ] Flashbacks reveal that Ernest raised his daughter alone after the girl’s mother passed away. He was murdered because the girl’s maternal aunt wanted to take custody of her but wasn’t willing to go to court. We see the murder take place (blunt force trauma to the head), and the body is buried in the backyard of what would eventually become the Presleys’ home. The man who killed Ernest returns to the Presleys’ home because he believes Kevin knows the truth about the murder. Mayhem involving threats, blows to the head, gunfire and other violence transpires, concluding with someone falling to his death from a window.

Crude or Profane Language

We hear the s-word 40 times. There are also several uses each of “a–,” “a–hole,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “d–k” and “h—.” God’s name is abused 16 times (once paired with “d–n”). And Christ’s name is abused thrice. Someone uses the insult “butt munch.” A crude hand gesture is used.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Several inebriated women are rude to their rideshare driver while trying to get home. We see a drunken man in another scene. We hear someone mixed an anxiety medication with alcohol. There’s a joke about getting high. A woman worries she’ll lose her liquor license when two teens enter her bar to ask questions about Ernest.

We hear a man started drinking after the mother of his child died, as well as commentary on how drinking affected his life later on.

Other Negative Elements

Frank and Fulton exploit Ernest for their own gains (Frank for money and Fulton for popularity). When Kevin tries to tell them they should be helping Ernest move on, they shut him down, putting their own desires above Ernest’s needs.

When the government steps in to apprehend Ernest—who they’ve been told is dangerous—they admit they can’t get a warrant since a ghost doesn’t necessarily qualify as a terrorist. The Presley family’s Fourth Amendment rights are questioned. Later, they’re held captive and forced by CIA agents to lie on television, saying that Kevin was kidnapped by Ernest. Melanie bumps into an agent to distract him so she can swipe a cell phone to call her son. When she’s caught, she’s told that aiding and abetting a known fugitive is a crime.

Joy is often rude to her dad because she feels pressure from him to uphold an academic standard. (She states this is because he feels pressure to prove himself worthy as an Asian man living in America.) Kevin feels similar racial pressure from his own dad, who hates that Kevin prefers listening to music by Terry Kath (frontman and lead guitarist of the band Chicago), a white man, as opposed to Jimi Hendrix.

Joy covers up bathroom graffiti, ironically, by spray-painting over it. However, the real problem is what she was covering up. We learn that a bully wrote her phone number down (which spells out the word “poop”) to solicit racially charged text messages.

People lie (and Frank encourages his sons to lie to their mother about Ernest so she won’t “freak out”). A few cars are stolen. Ernest steals a motel room key while he, Kevin and Joy are on the run. Frank snatches Kevin’s phone away in frustration and then gives it back by tossing it on the floor. We hear someone got stuck in the Presleys’ chimney trying to enter their home without permission. Joy loudly disturbs students in a library on purpose.

There are a few jump scares. Early on, a family flees the house Ernest inhabits, shrieking in fear. Several others are frightened by Ernest (and a little girl screams in fear when she thinks he wants to kidnap her). Others, on the other hand, are obsessed with him and chase him, Kevin and Joy down the street when they spot him.

We hear about people “setting their farts on fire.” Kevin says a pharmaceutical didn’t work as intended and gave the consumers diarrhea instead. Three characters stay at a disgusting motel room for a night. (We see some gross stuff, hear crass comments and one person discovers a peep hole into another room behind a painting).

People online try to fight for Ernest’s rights. And while this might seem nice, it’s clear they’re only doing it to gain followers since Ernest isn’t in any danger or being held against his will. Someone online claims that the coronavirus isn’t real.

When the Presleys ask their real estate agent if something bad happened in the house, she’s quick to say no. And while this technically isn’t a lie (or at least, not an intentional one), she fails to tell them that the house is haunted. A mailbox is knocked over by vehicles several times from negligence.

We see a woman suffering from the effects of a stroke. Someone fibs that a father abandoned his child.

Man, oh man, am I glad that we don’t have a ghost. Mostly because of the spiritual implications of ghosts. It’s just not something I’m personally prepared to handle. Though to be honest, the filmmakers didn’t seem particularly prepped to handle it either.

Kevin wonders twice where ghosts go after they gain closure and “cross over.” But that’s all he does: momentarily speculating about the afterlife. And it’s ultimately left as an extremely open-ended question without God or heaven ever being part of the discussion (other than a fan of Ernest’s who dresses up like Jesus).

The film has some other problems Christian families might want to look out for, too, namely violence, foul language and sexual innuendo.

This isn’t a particularly graphic film. Sexual content is only hinted at, not displayed on screen. It’s actually more disturbing that most of the crass comments are coming from a teenager. And speaking of crassness, everyone is swearing up a storm. There are no f-bombs, but if I’d said the s-word as a kid as often as Kevin and his friends do, I’d have gotten grounded for life.

Now, there is a scene where Ernest goes all Conjuring on a television crew. It’s a little gross and disturbing. But it’s ultimately played for comedy since we know Ernest is friendly and purposely trying to freak them out.

However, the circumstances of Ernest’s death (eventually depicted on screen) are quite sad and violent. And there are some pretty violent action sequences that conclude the film. So viewers should watch out for those, too.

Ultimately, We Have a Ghost isn’t the worst film out there, especially since it actually has some sweet father-son moments and some nice stuff with Ernest. But families should consider whether they’re ready to navigate all the film’s problems before viewing.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.

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‘We Have a Ghost’ Review: David Harbour Is the Least Fashionable Ghost of All Time

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The best horror movies succeed by tapping into our collective nightmares. They take the big ideas that haunt us at night — the things we’re all afraid to admit terrify us — and give us a thrilling catharsis by bringing them to life on screen. Great horror filmmakers understand that there’s already more than enough darkness in our hearts, and all they have to do is reflect it back at us. So it was only a matter of time before a brave director took on the one bogeyman whose portrayal has evaded even the most twisted auteurs: David Harbour in a bowling shirt with a bad combover.

While it’s hard to judge anyone for looking bad when they’re damned to spend eternity wearing whatever they happened to have on when they died, it’s worth noting that ghosts have a relatively simple dress code to follow. When it’s widely accepted that you can show up to work wearing a literal white sheet over your head, there’s really no excuse for a fashion faux pas of this magnitude. But alas, that’s what we’re dealing with in “We Have a Ghost.” A family buys an old house in a new city, only to find out that the attic is haunted by the least fashionable ghost of all time.

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The Presley family needs a fresh start to wash the taste of the last few fresh starts out of their mouths. Frank (Anthony Mackie) is always moving his family around, but he can never quite find the right career opportunity to get his life on track. Patience is starting to wear thin, and his teenage sons Kevin (Jahi Winston) and Fulton (Niles Fitch) are rapidly losing respect for him. So Frank and his wife Melanie (Erica Ash) decide to pack their bags once again with the hopes that the next fresh start will stick. Their new house is the ultimate fixer-upper, but it still feels like malpractice that the realtor neglects to tell them that they now have a ghost .

When Kevin wanders into the attic after school one day, he finds Ernest (David Harbour), a bowling-shirt clad ghost who appears to just be minding his own business. He can’t talk, isn’t particularly interested in scaring anyone, and he appears content to just silently keep to himself. Despite having trouble fitting in at his new school, Kevin quickly strikes up a friendship with the ghost. The conversations are rather one-sided, but Ernest is a great listener!

What could have been a wholesome friendship is quickly complicated, as so many things are, by social media. Kevin’s family soon learns about Ernest, and their videos of the ghost quickly go viral. In one of the most charming sequences of the film, we see how the news of a real-life ghost sparks a series of reaction videos, reaction-to-the-reaction videos, and reaction-to-the-reaction-to-the-reaction videos from every demographic on the Internet. In a matter of days, Ernest goes from a shy attic-dweller to the world’s biggest influencer.

Frank immediately sees dollar signs. He rolls up his sleeves and starts setting up merchandising deals and TV appearances — after a lifetime of failure, he finally has a cultural phenomenon on his hands. Ernest’s rabid fanbase eventually grows to the point where he attracts the attention of a secret ghost-centric division of the CIA. When Frank is too focused on the money to protect his golden goose from the feds, Kevin is forced to hit the road to help Ernest escape to safety.

While “We Have a Ghost” is one of the worst Christopher Landon movies to date, there are still some fun moments to remind us that the talented director of “Freaky” and “Happy Death Day” is somewhere behind the camera. His whimsically stylized shots and tongue-in-cheek sense of humor are there — who else could pull off a horror movie with such a “We Bought a Zoo”-esque title — they’re just buried under the layers of blandness that drag down so many Netflix original movies.

Landon assembled an excellent supporting cast, but he never seems to let any of them make an interesting choice. Jennifer Coolidge playing a “Long Island Medium”-inspired reality TV host is an inspired casting if there ever was, but the script doesn’t give her disinterested character anything to cook with. And Tig Notaro is always a delight, but her rogue CIA agent amounts to little more than a cardboard prop designed to move the plot along.

The lack of character development is most depressing when it comes to the Presley family. The film is ostensibly about Frank learning to be a better father, but it’s hard to appreciate someone’s progress when you’re never quite clear about what they were doing wrong in the first place. The script is full of throwaway lines about how he failed a lot and was always moving the family around, but there’s never a good explanation for what kind of failure he was. A sleazy grifter? A wide-eyed optimist who bet on himself too often? A lazy bastard who neglected his responsibilities? Who’s to say? That might seem like a small detail, but it ends up really mattering.

Frank’s relationship with his kids is never clearly defined, and he seems to shift from the tough disciplinarian to the fun dad to the clueless dope in every other scene. We keep hearing about how much he used to fail, but it’s not particularly satisfying to watch someone correct their ambiguous implied mistakes.  Movies like this live or die based on our emotional investment in the relationships at their core, and Landon just isn’t able to conjure up a father-son dynamic (or a kid-ghost dynamic) that’s compelling enough to power the story.

All of these missed opportunities to add texture start to add up, and by the time the credits roll we’re left with nothing but a generic (if competent) ghost story. If you have your heart set on watching a new release about people who have a ghost today, “We Have a Ghost” will be a tolerable experience. But for everyone else, reading the film’s highly descriptive title is about as interesting as spending 127 minutes watching it.

“We Have a Ghost” starts streaming on Netflix on Friday, February 24.

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We Have a Ghost – Netflix Review (2/5)

Posted by Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard | Feb 24, 2023 | 5 minutes

We Have a Ghost – Netflix Review (2/5)

WE HAVE A GHOST on Netflix is a new family horror comedy with a runtime of just over two hours, which is too long. It does definitely have good moments – as shown in the trailer – but overall, I was disappointed with it. Read our full We Have a Ghost movie review here!

WE HAVE A GHOST is a new Netflix movie that covers the comedy and horror genres, though in a very family-oriented way—often trying to be mild-mannered enough to appeal to very young viewers. However, then there’s a scene with a melting face (sort of) which seems to be for older viewers.

I was really looking forward to watching this on Netflix after the trailer came out. However, as soon as I saw it had a runtime of just over two hours (2 hours and 6 minutes, officially), I started to get a bad feeling. While the trailer is fast-paced and funny, the movie itself has a relatively slow approach. To everything really!

Continue reading our We Have a Ghost movie review below. Find it on Netflix from February 24, 2023.

Holy comb-over, Hellboy!

As everyone who has seen the trailer for (or any images from) the movie will know, David Harbour (who played the title character in the newest Hellboy movie) plays a ghost with a comb-over. This in itself works perfectly for a character in a horror-comedy. He doesn’t really speak a single word, so you’ll simply hear him grunt and moan. But this works fine.

We meet David Harbour as the ghost “Ernest” when the Presley family moves into a dusty fixer-upper. It’s way too cheap for the area and they soon realize why; The ghost in the attic named Ernest (David Harbour).

Trying to scare the youngest member of the family, teenage son Kevin (Jahi Winston), doesn’t work as intended. Kevin just laughs and tries to talk to Ernest instead. Kevin’s father Frank ( Anthony Mackie ) is always looking for his big break and is quick to cash in on Ernest.

He uploads a video of Ernest to YouTube and the internet does what it does. Ernest becomes a social media sensation. In a montage of Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok videoes, we see both Ernest and the mother of the Presley family become memes. It’s all a bit too easy, but also seems scarily realistic.

Enter the CIA

Dr. Leslie Monroe (Tig Notaro) is a washed-up paranormal scientist who also comes across this video. In a weird scene, someone tells her about this video just before we hear the Presley family talking about the relatively few views the video has on YouTube.

Dr. Monroe reaches out to her old boss, the Deputy Director of the CIA (Steve Coulter) and they re-open a clandestine program that was focused on trying to capture a ghost. Why? Well, it would appear it’s primarily due to ghosts being dead and therefore having no rights, so you can use them for whatever you want.

Kevin and his fellow outcast neighbor Joy (Isabella Russo) do their best to help Ernest. Mostly by figuring out who he was in life and how he died. He has no memories of anything really, and the name Ernest is simply due to a bowling shirt he’s wearing with the name on it.

We Have a Ghost (2023) – Review | Netflix

More Casper than  Ghostbusters

I have a real soft spot for family horror comedies as it’s the perfect gateway into genre movies for many. However, based on the We Have a Ghost trailer, I expected more Ghostbusters than Casper (as in the friendly ghost). Unfortunately, that’s not the case. And with a runtime of a solid two hours, it is definitely too long.

In fact, despite my affection for Tig Notaro ( Army of the Dead ) in general, most of the storyline featuring her character should’ve been cut. Some of her scenes could’ve easily remained, but there’s a whole CIA side story that is ultimately completely redundant.

In official press material, this Netflix family feature is described as “ an action-packed supernatural adventure exploring nostalgia, unlikely friendships, and the unbreakable bonds of family “. Well, when it comes to friendship and family, it does work. Action-packed is (for the most part) over-selling the movie.

Also, while I’m all for friendship being a key part of  any  story, I  really  wish they had dropped the romantic angle. The two teens have great chemistry and energy as friends. As anything romantic, I find the whole ghost story to be much more realistic and believable.

Watch  We Have a Ghost  on Netflix now!

The new Netflix family horror-comedy was written and directed by Christopher Landon. It’s based on a short story by Geoff Manaugh that was published on After a bidding war, Legendary secured the rights and Christopher Landon was attached.

Based on his Happy Death Day (2017) movie, it seemed like an obvious choice. A match made in horror-comedy heaven, if you will.

Unfortunately,  We Have a Ghost  is  very  far away from both the horror, comedy and biting sarcasm of Happy Death Day . In fact, even the characters seem a lot more shallow. Maybe because there are too many characters and too many irrelevant side stories that could have easily been left on the cutting room floor.

Look, it’s obvious to me that I had expectations for something very different than this film delivers. As such, I was disappointed in the movie. To be fair, I do think the trailer for  We Have a Ghost  presents a movie that is much more like the one I expected.

The trailer lets down the movie because it shows a very different movie. One that’s both funnier and more fast-paced.

We Have a Ghost premieres on Netflix on February 24, 2023.

Director: Christopher Landon Writers: Christopher Landon ( Script ), Geoff Manaugh ( Story ) Cast: David Harbour, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Anthony Mackie, Jennifer Coolidge, Tig Notaro, Tom Bower, Faith Ford, Steve Coulter, Erica Ash, Niles Fitch, Sherri Eakin, April McCullough, Scott A. Martin, Ned Yousef, Natalie Okamoto, Jo-Ann Robinson, LaTaryion Perry

Finding a ghost named Ernest haunting their new home turns Kevin’s family into overnight social media sensations. But when Kevin and Ernest go rogue to investigate the mystery of Ernest’s past, they become a target of the CIA.

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About The Author

Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard

Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard

I write reviews and recaps on Heaven of Horror. And yes, it does happen that I find myself screaming, when watching a good horror movie. I love psychological horror, survival horror and kick-ass women. Also, I have a huge soft spot for a good horror-comedy. Oh yeah, and I absolutely HATE when animals are harmed in movies, so I will immediately think less of any movie, where animals are harmed for entertainment (even if the animals are just really good actors). Fortunately, horror doesn't use this nearly as much as comedy. And people assume horror lovers are the messed up ones. Go figure!

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We Have a Ghost parents guide

We Have a Ghost Parent Guide

Too violent for children and too juvenile for adults, this movie has no idea who its audience is. there likely isn't one..

Netflix: When Kevin discovers a ghost living in the attic of his new family home, he decides to help him find peace. There's just one catch: videos of the ghost are going viral online.

Release date February 24, 2023

Run Time: 126 minutes

Get Content Details

The guide to our grades, parent movie review by savannah sillito.

Seeking a new start, the Presley family move into a rundown old house that’s listed for a suspiciously cheap price. They soon find out why: a ghost named Ernest (David Harbour) lives in the attic. As youngest son Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) befriends their supernatural housemate, he makes a goal to help Ernest remember his former life and find peace. At the same time, the family’s videos of their ghost friend are going viral online, which attracts a few interested parties.

One of the first rules of writing, for film or otherwise, is having a sense of who your audience is. We Have a Ghost ’s doesn’t have a clue. I spent the entire runtime scratching my head and wondering “Who is this for?” There’s far too much swearing and violence for a child audience, but it’s also too juvenile for adults. Maybe it was originally aimed at teens but then swung too hard into the PG-13 rating? I’m really not sure.

As mentioned, this film is not family-friendly entertainment. There is a lot of swearing (over five dozen profanities), along with weapons violence, and some sexual references. There is also a scene with some grotesque body horror and significant scares. Another issue is the length: two hours is far too long, and it feels like it. The entire second act drags on for an eternity. I made, ate, and cleaned up dinner while watching and was only at the halfway mark. Perhaps I was trapped in some sort of purgatory, much like Ernest. It sure felt that way.

About author

Savannah sillito, watch the trailer for we have a ghost.

We Have a Ghost Rating & Content Info

Why is We Have a Ghost rated PG-13? We Have a Ghost is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for language, some sexual/suggestive references and violence

Violence: A ghost contorts his limbs in a disturbing manner and makes his face melt off. A ghost chokes a woman. Guns are used in multiple scenes. A brief reference to suicide. A man is hit in the head with a blunt object and dies. A man is hit in the head and passes out, some blood is seen. A man falls out of a window and dies. Sexual Content: Some sexual references and innuendo. Two teens share a bed in a non-sexual context and are seen cuddling fully clothed. A teen couple kiss. Profanity: There are around 50 mild and moderate expletives along with over 15 uses of terms of deity. Alcohol / Drug Use: Some references to drinking. A scene takes place in a bar.

Page last updated January 11, 2024

We Have a Ghost Parents' Guide

What affect does Ernest’s fame have on the Presley family? How do each of them feel about it and how does it affect their relationships with each other?

Related home video titles:

Another family discovers an unexpected attic denizen in Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile . In this kid-friendly musical, the family members throw themselves into keeping Lyle with them and out of the zoo.

In Aliens in the Attic , teenaged siblings are astonished to discover unexpected extraterrestrial visitors in their summer home.

A teenage girl has an unusual gift: she can see the dead and help them complete unfinished business so they can move on. In Darby and the Dead , she finds herself helping her newly deceased frenemy plan a final birthday bash.

movie reviews we have a ghost

10 Best Family Movies About Ghosts, Ranked

Ghosts, haunted houses and things that go bump in the night are key ingredients to a good scary movie , but not all of them have to be so terrifying. Even kids love ghost stories, and there are plenty of movies about these spiritual apparitions that are both spooky and good fun for the whole family without giving the kiddos nightmares for days. It could seem as if adults would become bored with a ghost movie geared toward kids, but one would be mistaken, as even those relatively innocent movies can provide a decent scare here-or-there for the older crowd.

To be clear, the bulk of the horror genre is not made with kids in mind. While flicks like Insidious and The Conjuring are definitely too much and will likely scar your child for life upon first viewing , there are many safe options out there that still make for thrilling and exciting family viewing . As they say, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost!”

‘We Have A Ghost’ (2023)

Directed by christopher landon.

Happy Death Day and Freaky director Christopher Landon stepped away from teen slasher films to direct the family-friendly supernatural movie We Have a Ghost for Netflix. In the film, Kevin’s ( Jahi Di’Allo Winston ) family become overnight social media sensations when they discover they have a ghost in their home named Ernest ( David Harbour ). However, when Kevin and Ernest investigate Ernest’s past, they become targets of the CIA.

Thanks to its comedic elements and a fun performance from Harbour, We Have a Ghost is light family viewing that will make kids laugh rather than scream . It’s a perfect choice for a kids' movie to watch on the streamer , and features actors like Anthony Mackie and Jennifer Coolidge . It will leave viewers also wishing they had a ghost like Ernest in their house.

We Have A Ghost

Release Date February 23, 2023

Director Christopher Landon

Cast Faith Ford, David Harbour, Anthony Mackie, Niles Fitch, Tig Notaro, Jennifer Coolidge

Rating PG-13

Runtime 126 minutes

We Have A Ghost can be streamed on Netflix in the U.S.

Watch on Netflix

‘Scooby-Doo’ (2002)

Directed by raja gosnell.

Based on the iconic Warner Bros. cartoon and cultural phenomenon, Scooby-Doo marks the live-action debut of everyone’s favorite sandwich eating and mystery-solving dog. After a clash of egos forces Mystery Incorporated to break up, the gang reunite at a creepy amusement park on an island resort, where they investigate strange occurrences.

Along with Scooby ( Neil Fanning ), the Mystery Inc. gang are perfectly cast, with Freddie Prinze Jr. as Fred, Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, Linda Cardellini as Velma and Sarah Michelle Geller as Daphne. Scooby-Doo has delightfully camp 2000s vibes, with plenty of ghostly moments that will have viewers trying to uncover the mystery along with the gang . It’s a nostalgic favorite that is still so much fun to watch today.

Release Date June 14, 2002

Director Raja Gosnell

Cast Matthew Lillard, Freddie Prinze Jr., Linda Cardellini, Rowan Atkinson, Sarah Michelle Gellar

Scooby-Doo can be streamed on Apple TV+ in the U.S.

Rent on AppleTV+

‘Haunted Mansion’ (2023)

Directed by justin simien.

Most people are familiar with the 2003 version of The Haunted Mansion , starring Eddie Murphy and based on the popular Disneyland attraction. The ride was once again adapted for the big screen in 2023’s Haunted Mansion , giving the story a modern update and feel. The film follows single mother Gabbie ( Rosario Dawson ) and her son Travis ( Chase Dillon ), who enlist the help of spiritual experts to rid their new home of ghosts.

The ensemble is made up of LaKeith Stanfield as Ben, Tiffany Haddish as psychic Harriet, Owen Wilson as Father Kent, Danny DeVito as historian Bruce, Jamie Lee Curtis as Madame Leota and Jared Leto as The Hatbox Ghost. Haunted Mansion is a Disney movie, so the scares are quite tame , but the film is still full of entertaining haunted house shenanigans .

Haunted Mansion

Release Date July 28, 2023

Director Justin Simien

Cast Jamie Lee Curtis, Winona Ryder, Rosario Dawson, Tiffany Haddish

Runtime 122 minutes

Hunted Mansion can be streamed on Disney+ in the U.S.

Watch on Disney+

‘Casper’ (1995)

Directed by brad silberling.

They call Casper ( Malachi Pearson ) the friendly ghost, and it’s easy to see why in this touching and heartfelt paranormal tale. Afterlife expert Dr. James Harvey ( Bill Pullman ) is hired to remove ghosts from a crumbling mansion, and he brings daughter Kat ( Christina Ricci ) along with him. His plans change when they meet Casper, a kind young ghost who befriends Kat.

However, Casper’s ghost uncles are not so friendly, and the human pair must ultimately help them cross over to the afterlife. Viewers will fall in love with the adorable Casper and his sweet relationship with Kat . It is also deeply emotional and will tug on the heart strings. Ultimately, it is a harmless little spooky film that is perfect for both kids and adults.

Casper can be streamed on Apple TV+ in the U.S.

‘Monster House’ (2006)

Directed by gil kenan.

Monster House takes the concept of haunted houses to a whole new level, with the titular house being a living, breathing and dangerous monster. The story follows three teens who try to convince everybody that the house is haunted, but when no one listens, they must take matters into their own hands to protect the children in their neighborhood.

Monster House features some genuinely scary moments and imagery that may be a little too much for younger kids, so the film is definitely targeted towards older children and their families . If kids want a really great scare without any of the emotional trauma, this is the perfect viewing choice. As funny as it is scary, it makes for a great watch on Halloween or any other time of the year.

Monster House

Release Date June 30, 2006

Director Gil Kenan

Cast Sam Lerner, Mitchel Musso, Ryan Newman, Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara

Monster House can be streamed on Apple TV+ in the U.S.

‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ (1992)

Directed by brian henson.

If you are in the mood for a more cheerful story about ghosts, then look no further than The Muppet Christmas Carol . Michael Caine plays Ebenezer Scrooge in this retelling of Charles Dickens ’s A Christma Carol , which also features Kermit the Frog ( Steve Whitmire ) and Miss Piggy ( Frank Oz ), and is narrated by Gonzo ( Dave Goelz ) and Rizzo the Rat (Whitmire).

In the film, the grumpy and greedy Scrooge is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, in order to teach him about Christmas and change his views on life. Not only is The Muppet Christmas Carol a beloved film to watch during the festive season , but it’s also probably the best Muppets movie ever . It is perfect viewing for all ages.

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Release Date December 10, 1992

Director Brian Henson

Cast David Rudman, Michael Caine, Jerry Nelson, Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Frank Oz

Runtime 85 minutes

The Muppet Christmas Carol can be streamed on Disney+ in the U.S.

‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ (2021)

Directed by jason reitman.

The original Ghostbusters is one of the most iconic movies to come out of the 1980s, launching a franchise that still lives to this day. While most of the sexual innuendo and references in that movie will likely fly over children’s heads, they are a reminder that the film is not necessarily targeted towards kids. Ghostbusters: Afterlife , the legacy sequel that continues the story after decades, is definitely more family friendly in terms of content .

The film follows a single mom ( Carrie Coon ) and her two kids ( Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard ), who are related to original Ghostbuster Egon Spengler ( Harold Ramis ). They discover their connection to the Ghostbusters and continue what they started. Whimsical, charming and heartfelt, this is a film to be enjoyed by all ages.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Release Date November 19, 2021

Director Jason Reitman

Cast Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon

Runtime 124 minutes

Main Genre Adventure

Genres Comedy, Adventure, Fantasy

Writers Jason Reitman, Harold Ramis, Gil Kenan, Dan Aykroyd, Ivan Reitman

Ghostbusters: Afterlife can be streamed on Fubo TV in the U.S.

Watch on FuboTV

‘Corpse Bride’ (2005)

Directed by tim burton.

Tim Burton is king when it comes to creepy movies targeted towards families, and Corpse Bride is one of his best. Victor ( Johnny Depp ) is set to marry Victoria ( Emily Watson ) in an arranged marriage. Nervous, he practices his wedding vows in front of a deceased woman’s grave. The woman, Emily ( Helena Bonham Carter ), is brought back to life (still appearing as a corpse) and believes the pair are now married.

Featuring creative and eye-popping stop-motion animation , Corpse Bride is as equally spooky as it is kooky . It is both hilarious and macabre, with a bittersweet love story at its core. The film marked Burton’s first animated feature film, and his gothic style and influence is evident in every frame.

Corpse Bride

Release Date September 12, 2005

Director Tim Burton, Mike Johnson

Cast Tracey Ullman, Paul Whitehouse, Johnny Depp, Joanna Lumley, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson

Corpse Bride can be streamed on Apple TV+ in the U.S.

‘ParaNorman’ (2012)

Directed by chris butler and sam fell.

From Laika, the studio that brought audiences the weird and wonderful Coraline , comes ParaNorman , another stop-motion animated and frightful adventure. Norman Babcock ( Kodi Smit-McPhee ) is a misunderstood boy who can talk to ghosts. When his town comes under a deadly curse, he must use his abilities to save the day.

He teams up with his friend Neil ( Tucker Albrizzi ), sister Courtney ( Anna Kendrick ), her boyfriend Mitch ( Casey Affleck ) and bully Alvin ( Christopher Mintz-Plasse ). Norman’s unique gift is seen as a positive, as he can talk to his dead uncle ( John Goodman ) and receives important information that will help him lift the curse. ParaNorman is another flick that may be too scary for very little ones, but that older kids will absolutely adore .

Release Date August 3, 2012

Director Chris Butler, Sam Fell

Cast Kodi Smit-McPhee, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Anna Kendrick, Tucker Albrizzi, Leslie Mann, Casey Affleck

ParaNorman can be streamed on Roku in the U.S.

Watch on Roku

‘Beetlejuice’ (1988)

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! Say his name three times and the mischievous, trickster ghost played by Michael Keaton will appear. The film follows Adam ( Alec Baldwin ) and Barbara ( Geena Davis ), a deceased couple who continue to live in their home. When new people move in, they try to scare them out and enlist the help of Beetlejuice.

Keaton’s portrayal of the crass and eccentric Beetlejuice is one for the ages, crafting a truly iconic cinematic character. Kids will be enthralled (and maybe even a little creeped out) by the imaginative and quirky visuals, which come courtesy of director Tim Burton and his distinct filmmaking style . While children probably won’t get some of the adult jokes and humor, it’s likely they’ll be distracted by all the artistry on screen.


Release Date March 30, 1988

Director Tim Burton

Cast Hugo Stanger, Maurice Page, Annie McEnroe, Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis

Runtime 92 minutes

Beetlejuice can be streamed on Prime Video in the U.S.

Watch on Prime

KEEP READING: Horror Movies For Beginners To Ease Into The Spooky Genre

10 Best Family Movies About Ghosts, Ranked


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Critic’s Pick

‘Civil War’ Review: We Have Met the Enemy and It Is Us. Again.

In Alex Garland’s tough new movie, a group of journalists led by Kirsten Dunst, as a photographer, travels a United States at war with itself.

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‘Civil War’ | Anatomy of a Scene

The writer and director alex garland narrates a sequence from his film..

“My name is Alex Garland and I’m the writer director of ‘Civil War’. So this particular clip is roughly around the halfway point of the movie and it’s these four journalists and they’re trying to get, in a very circuitous route, from New York to DC, and encountering various obstacles on the way. And this is one of those obstacles. What they find themselves stuck in is a battle between two snipers. And they are close to one of the snipers and the other sniper is somewhere unseen, but presumably in a large house that sits over a field and a hill. It’s a surrealist exchange and it’s surrounded by some very surrealist imagery, which is they’re, in broad daylight in broad sunshine, there’s no indication that we’re anywhere near winter in the filming. In fact, you can kind of tell it’s summer. But they’re surrounded by Christmas decorations. And in some ways, the Christmas decorations speak of a country, which is in disrepair, however silly it sounds. If you haven’t put away your Christmas decorations, clearly something isn’t going right.” “What’s going on?” “Someone in that house, they’re stuck. We’re stuck.” “And there’s a bit of imagery. It felt like it hit the right note. But the interesting thing about that imagery was that it was not production designed. We didn’t create it. We actually literally found it. We were driving along and we saw all of these Christmas decorations, basically exactly as they are in the film. They were about 100 yards away, just piled up by the side of the road. And it turned out, it was a guy who’d put on a winter wonderland festival. People had not dug his winter wonderland festival, and he’d gone bankrupt. And he had decided just to leave everything just strewn around on a farmer’s field, who was then absolutely furious. So in a way, there’s a loose parallel, which is the same implication that exists within the film exists within real life.” “You don’t understand a word I say. Yo. What’s over there in that house?” “Someone shooting.” “It’s to do with the fact that when things get extreme, the reasons why things got extreme no longer become relevant and the knife edge of the problem is all that really remains relevant. So it doesn’t actually matter, as it were, in this context, what side they’re fighting for or what the other person’s fighting for. It’s just reduced to a survival.”

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By Manohla Dargis

A blunt, gut-twisting work of speculative fiction, “Civil War” opens with the United States at war with itself — literally, not just rhetorically. In Washington, D.C., the president is holed up in the White House; in a spookily depopulated New York, desperate people wait for water rations. It’s the near-future, and rooftop snipers, suicide bombers and wild-eyed randos are in the fight while an opposition faction with a two-star flag called the Western Forces, comprising Texas and California — as I said, this is speculative fiction — is leading the charge against what remains of the federal government. If you’re feeling triggered, you aren’t alone.

It’s mourning again in America, and it’s mesmerizingly, horribly gripping. Filled with bullets, consuming fires and terrific actors like Kirsten Dunst running for cover, the movie is a what-if nightmare stoked by memories of Jan. 6. As in what if the visions of some rioters had been realized, what if the nation was again broken by Civil War, what if the democratic experiment called America had come undone? If that sounds harrowing, you’re right. It’s one thing when a movie taps into childish fears with monsters under the bed; you’re eager to see what happens because you know how it will end (until the sequel). Adult fears are another matter.

In “Civil War,” the British filmmaker Alex Garland explores the unbearable if not the unthinkable, something he likes to do. A pop cultural savant, he made a splashy zeitgeist-ready debut with his 1996 best seller “The Beach,” a novel about a paradise that proves deadly, an evergreen metaphor for life and the basis for a silly film . That things in the world are not what they seem, and are often far worse, is a theme that Garland has continued pursuing in other dark fantasies, first as a screenwriter (“ 28 Days Later ”), and then as a writer-director (“ Ex Machina ”). His résumé is populated with zombies, clones and aliens, though reliably it is his outwardly ordinary characters you need to keep a closer watch on.

By the time “Civil War” opens, the fight has been raging for an undisclosed period yet long enough to have hollowed out cities and people’s faces alike. It’s unclear as to why the war started or who fired the first shot. Garland does scatter some hints; in one ugly scene, a militia type played by a jolting, scarily effective Jesse Plemons asks captives “what kind of American” they are. Yet whatever divisions preceded the conflict are left to your imagination, at least partly because Garland assumes you’ve been paying attention to recent events. Instead, he presents an outwardly and largely post-ideological landscape in which debates over policies, politics and American exceptionalism have been rendered moot by war.

The Culture Desk Poster

‘Civil War’ Is Designed to Disturb You

A woman with a bulletproof vest that says “Press” stands in a smoky city street.

One thing that remains familiar amid these ruins is the movie’s old-fashioned faith in journalism. Dunst, who’s sensational, plays Lee, a war photographer who works for Reuters alongside her friend, a reporter, Joel (the charismatic Wagner Moura). They’re in New York when you meet them, milling through a crowd anxiously waiting for water rations next to a protected tanker. It’s a fraught scene; the restless crowd is edging into mob panic, and Lee, camera in hand, is on high alert. As Garland’s own camera and Joel skitter about, Lee carves a path through the chaos, as if she knows exactly where she needs to be — and then a bomb goes off. By the time it does, an aspiring photojournalist, Jessie (Cailee Spaeny), is also in the mix.

The streamlined, insistently intimate story takes shape once Lee, Joel, Jessie and a veteran reporter, Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), pile into a van and head to Washington. Joel and Lee are hoping to interview the president (Nick Offerman), and Sammy and Jessie are riding along largely so that Garland can make the trip more interesting. Sammy serves as a stabilizing force (Henderson fills the van with humanizing warmth), while Jessie plays the eager upstart Lee takes under her resentful wing. It’s a tidily balanced sampling that the actors, with Garland’s banter and via some cozy downtime, turn into flesh-and-blood personalities, people whose vulnerability feeds the escalating tension with each mile.

As the miles and hours pass, Garland adds diversions and hurdles, including a pair of playful colleagues, Tony and Bohai (Nelson Lee and Evan Lai), and some spooky dudes guarding a gas station. Garland shrewdly exploits the tense emptiness of the land, turning strangers into potential threats and pretty country roads into ominously ambiguous byways. Smartly, he also recurrently focuses on Lee’s face, a heartbreakingly hard mask that Dunst lets slip brilliantly. As the journey continues, Garland further sketches in the bigger picture — the dollar is near-worthless, the F.B.I. is gone — but for the most part, he focuses on his travelers and the engulfing violence, the smoke and the tracer fire that they often don’t notice until they do.

Despite some much-needed lulls (for you, for the narrative rhythm), “Civil War” is unremittingly brutal or at least it feels that way. Many contemporary thrillers are far more overtly gruesome than this one, partly because violence is one way unimaginative directors can put a distinctive spin on otherwise interchangeable material: Cue the artful fountains of arterial spray. Part of what makes the carnage here feel incessant and palpably realistic is that Garland, whose visual approach is generally unfussy, doesn’t embellish the violence, turning it into an ornament of his virtuosity. Instead, the violence is direct, at times shockingly casual and unsettling, so much so that its unpleasantness almost comes as a surprise.

If the violence feels more intense than in a typical genre shoot ’em up, it’s also because, I think, with “Civil War,” Garland has made the movie that’s long been workshopped in American political discourse and in mass culture, and which entered wider circulation on Jan. 6. The raw power of Garland’s vision unquestionably owes much to the vivid scenes that beamed across the world that day when rioters, some wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “ MAGA civil war ,” swarmed the Capitol. Even so, watching this movie, I also flashed on other times in which Americans have relitigated the Civil War directly and not, on the screen and in the streets.

Movies have played a role in that relitigation for more than a century, at times grotesquely. Two of the most famous films in history — D.W. Griffith’s 1915 racist epic “The Birth of a Nation” (which became a Ku Klux Klan recruitment tool) and the romantic 1939 melodrama “Gone With the Wind” — are monuments to white supremacy and the myth of the Southern Lost Cause. Both were critical and popular hits. In the decades since, filmmakers have returned to the Civil War era to tell other stories in films like “Glory,” “Lincoln” and “Django Unchained” that in addressing the American past inevitably engage with its present.

There are no lofty or reassuring speeches in “Civil War,” and the movie doesn’t speak to the better angels of our nature the way so many films try to. Hollywood’s longstanding, deeply American imperative for happy endings maintains an iron grip on movies, even in ostensibly independent productions. There’s no such possibility for that in “Civil War.” The very premise of Garland’s movie means that — no matter what happens when or if Lee and the rest reach Washington — a happy ending is impossible, which makes this very tough going. Rarely have I seen a movie that made me so acutely uncomfortable or watched an actor’s face that, like Dunst’s, expressed a nation’s soul-sickness so vividly that it felt like an X-ray.

Civil War Rated R for war violence and mass death. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes. In theaters.

An earlier version of this review misidentified an organization in the Civil War in the movie. It is the Western Forces, not the Western Front.

How we handle corrections

Manohla Dargis is the chief film critic for The Times. More about Manohla Dargis

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Can We Talk About How Hot Wagner Moura Is in ‘Civil War’?


There are huge, complicated issues to debate when it comes to the hit film. Now that we have, we can finally move on to the important element: how hot Wagner Moura is in it.

Kevin Fallon

Kevin Fallon

Senior Editor, Obsessed

A photo illustration of Wagner Moura and Kirsten Dunst in A24’s Civil War.

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/A24

Alex Garland ’s Civil War is a cinematic lightning rod in a historic thunderstorm—and the tempest, in this case, is “being alive in America right now.”

The film follows tenacious war reporters who are capturing the last gasps of U.S. civilization at the climax of a new civil war. Brought on by polarization, extremism, and zealotry, the fighting has ravaged the country.

Civil War topped the box office over the weekend, setting a new record for hip studio A24, a victory lap navigated through choppy waters, as the film has sparked relentless discourse —even before the public was able to see it.

There has been heated discussion about the film’s politics , or if it was even political at all . There has been talk about the extreme violence and how it helps or hurts the film’s message—and, yes, questions of whether the film even has one. There have been passionate opinions about how journalism and journalists are portrayed , whether Nick Offerman’s despotic president does or does not represent Trump , and, of course, what we’re to make of the film’s jolt of an ending .

Wagner Moura in A24’s Civil War.

Wagner Moura

Those have all been worthy conversations. I’m glad we’ve had them. I hope they continue as more people have the opportunity to watch the film. Mostly, though, I’m relieved to have those big topics out of the way, so we can finally focus on the most important element of the movie: how hot Wagner Moura is in it.

Watching Civil War is a visceral experience. The action sequences are stressful, immersive, and, often, graphic and grotesque. So imagine my surprise that, right alongside extreme nausea and discomfort, the most intense feeling I had while watching the movie was horniness. (My therapy appointment has been booked, and my therapist has been forwarded a link to this piece.)

Moura has a history of inciting crushes on characters where you’d never expect. (Don’t act like you didn’t swoon over his Pablo Escobar in Narcos .) The grand tradition continues with Civil War , in which the Brazilian actor plays Joel, a war journalist who partners with photographer Lee ( Kirsten Dunst ) to capture the atrocities unfolding in their war-torn country—something they’re dejected to see happening in their home after spending decades documenting international crises and the devastating impact on humanity.

Both Joel and Lee, at this point in their careers, approach this fulcrum moment for democracy—a civil war on their turf—with a mixture of resigned cynicism and zeal.

They’ve been around the block, which is quite the cutesy way to put “miraculously survived countless bombings, rapid gunfire, and kidnapping attempts.” This is an unprecedented event for modern America, but the circumstances are familiar to them. More than Lee, however, Joel’s fervor for the job revives whenever they’re back in the thick of it. Combat is an intoxicant for him. The first time that he, along with Lee and neophyte photographer Jessie (Cailee Spaeny), get the chance to embed with some insurgents and experience crossfire on their road trip, his eyes alight and his entire body language changes. It’s almost as if he’s aroused—perhaps in solidarity with me watching him on screen—by just the potential of a thrilling reporting adventure. His wily machismo as he confronts danger, and his steely competence in the chaos of a melee, is, for lack of better words, hot as fuck.

One of the more complicated and, as such, interesting debates about Civil War is whether it, by virtue of being an entertainment product, glamorizes violence, acts of war, or the kind of depravity that results in a body count as alarming as the one in the film.

Wagner Moura and Cailee Spaeny in A24’s Civil War.

Wagner Moura and Cailee Spaeny

Wagner Moura and Cailee Spaeny in A24’s Civil War.

When a production like this lays violent siege to a replica of the White House, it’s adrenaline-inducing and, let’s face it, fun to watch. When a war reporter charges into military crossfire, hopscotches through relentless explosions, because he feels the duty to document it for the citizens of the world, it’s entirely badass. There’s a swagger to Joel, especially in how he behaves during his final interaction with the president, that makes you want to be him, date him, or exalt him—wherever you may fall on that attraction spectrum. Is that a romanticization that undermines a bleak, harrowing reality? Is that irresponsible in a film that’s meant to warn against war and its collateral damage?

Maybe, and those questions should be interrogated. But when Moura is wearing his tiny blue T-shirt, it’s hard to care as much.

Why is Joel wearing a T-shirt that is so tight and undersized that it appears he purchased it when he was a freshman in high school? I refuse to question something when the result is so beautiful. Is it utterly basic to be entranced by a swashbuckling, mustachioed man whose biceps bulge from under his T-shirt and who scoffs at danger while a cigarette dangles from his mouth and a bottle of whiskey hangs from his hip? Utterly and completely. Is it gauche to focus on that when there is so much seriousness to discuss when it comes to Civil War ? Without a doubt. But this is my truth, and if there is one thing this film taught me, it’s that the truth matters.

Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast  here .



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