Universal // 2008 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // September 30th, 2008
R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly will have the whole family on the edge of their seats...NOT!
Young people between the ages of 4 and 10 may find parts of this ghost tale scary and enjoyable, but chances are anyone older than that will either fall asleep watching it or avoid watching it in the first place.
Sterling Beaumon stars as Max, a typical 11-year-old who spends the majority of his free time at home practicing magic tricks. Max doesn't have many friends because most kids at his school poke fun at him for running around acting like a magician, but he doesn't care.
Everything changes however when Max runs into Tara (Madison Pettis, The Game Plan) and Nicky (Luke Benward, How to Eat Fried Worms), two ghosts who claim they once lived in Max's house but can't remember what happened or how they died. Offering Max the chance of a lifetime, the two spirits promise to help Max become a famous magician if he helps them find out what happened to them and their parents...
Little do the three know they are about to embark on a perilous adventure that will lead them to a hidden world inhabited by evil ghouls...
Where are the Ghostbusters when you really need them? That's exactly what I kept asking myself while I was watching this frightfully boring film. I completely understand Mostly Ghostly was made exclusively for a young audience, but the fact that it's a children's flick doesn't automatically make it a good movie. That said, I am sure kids in a certain age group will find this funny enough to have a good time. Although extremely simplistic, the story and characters are goofy enough to entertain anyone less than 10 years old. As far as the suspense is concerned, the film is definitely not too scary to show to a very young audience. Besides a few grownups running around in monster masks, there's barely anything frightening going on here.
All right, now that I made sure to mention that the film may entertain some youngsters, let's get to the serious stuff. Unless you insist on watching something with your kids and you really don't have anything else to watch, I highly suggest you skip Mostly Ghostly. Clocking in at a dreadful 98 minutes, which is clearly too long for this kind of movie, this direct-to-DVD release is the epitome of bad home entertainment. First and foremost, the film is incredibly boring, taking forever to lift off and struggling hard to maintain a steady pace throughout. The script by Jana Godshall, Pat Proft, and Richard Correll clearly fails to tell a frightening and exciting adventure, resulting in a slow-moving and pretty much monotonous film that's as forgettable as a quick bathroom break.
The last 15 or so minutes of the film do speed up and are a lot more entertaining than the rest of it, but by then it's simply too late to forget about all the flaws that damaged the previous 80 minutes. Because I realized early on that the plot was heading nowhere I paid some extra addition to the main characters, a decision I now regret because most of them are as shallow as characters in such a film can get. The most annoying of them all is Max's father, who just can't stop talking about how sports is so much cooler than magic. Some of the dialogue you will get to listen to here is tragic, really.
I completely understand the filmmakers were limited to a small budget to produce this thing, but all you need to come up with a solid script are great ideas (which are generally free), a pen, and some paper. I also understand R.L. Stine is a great author and has written several scary books, but something clearly went wrong during the development of this adaptation. Taking a great tale from a popular novelist and bringing it to the big or small screen does not automatically guarantee a masterpiece, either.
Anyway, what also disappointed me was the filmmakers' decision to use a lot of green screen to create the film's visuals, most of which turned out pretty bad. I mean, why would they want to create crappy effects with a small budget? Sure, the kids will probably not care about how the film looks like, but that's not a good enough reason to automatically praise it. I am absolutely convinced the film would have looked a lot better without all the CGI. That aside, Correll's direction is passable, and Peter Neff's score works fits the film's atmosphere.
I realize I was very harsh on Mostly Ghostly up to this point, so I'll cut it a tiny bit of slack in my brief analysis of the cast. Sterling Beaumon, who appeared in several television series, brings a whole lot of energy to the film, starring as the overly optimistic amateur magician who embarks on the quest to help his ghost friends and prevent the ghouls from creating mayhem among the living. Also delivering a decent performance is Luke Benward, who plays one of the two friendly ghosts. Mostly Ghostly also marks the debut for Lindsay Lohan's sister Ali, who is clearly not ready to break into the acting business. As Max's love interest, she just turns in a horrible performance. Also on board is little Madison Pettis, who doesn't stand out but is luckily not as annoying as in The Game Plan.
The disc does not include any special features. For once, that's totally fine with me.
It's hard to believe, but there is something positive about this disc. Of course I am talking about the video transfer, which provides a sharp and clean picture throughout, despite the bad special effects. Even the audio transfer is surprisingly decent.
I cannot repeat it often enough: Mostly Ghostly will likely please a young audience, although that does not make it a solid flick. It just makes it a flick that serves its purpose. Too bad this one isn't ghostly enough.
Guilty but not spooky.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated