On Today, we're looking back at Summer '90 (not as catchy) and the terrible movie that is Ghost Dad. If you don't remember much from it, or just haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and watch the trailer. It's awful, ain't it? How can thirty seconds show you exactly how bad a movie it is? It's 83 minutes long. This movie is best suited for looping as means of torture...in hell.
Ghost Dad begins with hard-working Elliot Hopper, a widower, trying to close a big deal that would get him a promotion. The family needs the money due to bills from trying to save his wife. As all very busy movie dads do, he forgets his daughter Diane's birthday. He makes this up to her by saying she can have his car, since he would receive a company car from the promotion. This works because she is a teenage girl in 1990.
At her request, he gives his daughter the car early and has to take a cab to work. He's picked up by a man named Curtis Burch (played by one of the best names in show-business, actor Raynor Scheine), who reveals himself to be a Satanist. See. He drives like a crazy person, forcing Elliot to say he is actually Satan hoping Burch would listen to him. Burch is more than stunned to see his "Evil Master" and promptly drives off a bridge. Elliot struggles to survive, but he and the car plummet into the river below. Uh oh.
At home, he finds that his children are able to see him if the room is completely dark (ok, what?) but they cannot hear him. The effects are so bad as they switch the light on and off, and he disappears and reappears. While trying to explain his predicament, he's sucked to London by a paranormal researcher. The researcher tells Elliot that he's screwed something up, and that it'd be fixed so he can cross over by Thursday - promotion day, coincidentally.
Now, I don't know if they chose not to consult with some sort of actual paranormal expert or what. I get the feeling that director Sidney Poitier - yes, THAT Sidney Poitier - didn't question anything he saw in the script. Not a thing. It was written by the guy(s) who wrote the Tremors movies. Realistic isn't their thing, I get it.
Once again, he can be seen only in the dark. His phasing in and out of solid objects is used only to exacerbate situations, and occurs at random. He answers the phone and, after the caller is rude, warps through the telephone line to the caller and chokes him out. It's exhausting to try to keep up.
It's explained away as being symptoms of his being stuck "in between," but it makes no real sense. He literally puts clothes on top of his "ghost clothes" to be seen in order to go to the meeting for the big deal, as well as to see his love interest who is played by Detroit's own Denise Nicholas. This is not The Invisible Man. He can pass through walls, but an overcoat is going to stay on him until he takes it off? Oh. And Elliot haunts/scares a young Omar Gooding, who tries to blackmail him for being an alien after seeing him "fly."
It's possible that I think too much about the science in movies, I know.
During the big deal (because no one was aware he'd died) he walks out, deciding that family is most important, and helps his son with a magic trick at school. He's a dead dad, not a deadbeat dad. Afterward, the paranormal researcher shows up from London to reveal that he has not actually died (oh?) and that his spirit jumped from his body out of fright (uh huh), with the only other case of this being Elliot's father (of course).
They don't expressly say this, but he is technically a member of a family of folk who can leave their corporeal bodies if startled enough. My head hurts.
Excited to reunite her dad's body and spirit, his daughter (kind of the reason we're here) slips on a skate and falls down the stairs. She is rushed to the hospital but, since she is also a Flatliner, her spirit leaves her body. As a ghost, she exhibits expert control immediately. She is able to fly around with no training from Ghost Dad, in case you ever wondered if the youth is better with technology.
They get Elliot to his body, just as he begins to flicker in and out, and Diane gets back to her own. They wake up, and no one is confused about how this guy had been dead for a couple days, or how this girl broke her neck and jumped up off the operating table. We, the viewers, are the only people with questions.
He sees evil cabbie Curtis Burch as he exits the hospital, and commands him to sit on hot coals in Hell and wait for him until it snows. So, you know, he definitely got him back.
And that's that.
Ghost Dad made no sense. It jumped between unfunny comedy and disingenuous drama. Could this have been the result if Clair Huxtable had an untimely demise? Would the movie have been any different if the original choice for the lead role (Steve Martin) didn't realize how bad it was going to be and drop out? Who knows? My only other question is: Was Cosby able to get a Quaalude prescription because the movie flopped so hard it caused actual physical injury?
Rotten Tomatoes: 7%