Losing a loved one is never easy but losing both while you’re still growing up can be devastating, and as such, there’s always been a fascination with dealing with the after-effects in film and other media. In 1990 famed movie star, Sidney Poitier teamed up with T.V. comedy star Bill Cosby, that tackled family issues such as work and family, life and death, with both humour and heart in the 1990s comedy Ghost Dad.
When widowed father of three Elliot Hopper puts more effort into his work to ensure his family is looked after, it causes significant stress to his family. When he catches a taxi driven by a devout Satanist whose dangerous driving sends him plunged in a river. Soon after realising he died and must spend his remaining time on earth as a ghost. His kids can see him, but only in the dark and interacting with objects is a challenge. Now it’s up to Eliot to realise the importance of family as he attempts to navigate the pressures of life after death.
The visual trickery used to create the ghostly illusion of Elliot is intriguing, in some cases even paying homage to the 19330 classic the Invisible Man in order to make the late Hooper meander around the world of the living. This goes in hand with the shenanigans the eponymous ghost dad causes in order to please his children and deliver the key pitch at his work. Refusing to let something like his own demise stop him.
The film likes to show off these gimmicks to fully own the title of Ghost Dad. And it plays with its established rules for comic effect. Like using a flashlight to hide his face as opposed to showing it off, and only being to be able to speak when he’s concentrating. An eccentric British paranormal scientist named Edith Moser explains these rules to Elliot Hopper (and the audience) while also offering humour all on his own. But the film isn’t all laughs, props should also go to Cosby and the ensemble that makes up his family whose struggles with technically being orphaned and still trying to carry on feel quite grounded.
With heart and comedy firmly balanced, Ghost Dad is a rather wholesome family-friendly look at life after death. It’s an indication to the comedy stylings of Crosby and a support casts that work so well together. There are laughs and there’s heart and both balanced in a way that makes you appreciate both of them. Coupled with its ghoulish premise, Ghost Dad manages to ironically breathe new life into the concept of sentimental family films.
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