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Case Number 15389: Small Claims Court

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Ghost (Blu-Ray)

Paramount // 1990 // 127 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // January 9th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Christopher Kulik ain't afraid of no strip tease dirty dancing.

Editor's Note

Our review of Ghost: Special Collector's Edition, published March 13th, 2007, is also available.

The Charge

A love that will last forever.

The Case

Paramount has slowly but surely been trickling out all of its catalog titles on Blu-ray, and the 1990 Oscar-winner Ghost is their latest offering. Last year, a Special Collector's Edition had been produced, providing a modest set of extras as well as a cool commentary with the writer and director. That being said, is an upgrade to high def really worth it?

N.Y. banker Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze, Dirty Dancing) and his loving girlfriend Molly Jensen (Demi Moore, Flawed) have just moved into a loft with the help of his best friend Carl Bruner (Tony Goldwyn, The Last Samurai). While Sam and Molly's relationship has grown stronger in the time they've spent together, Sam seems to be incapable of professing his true feelings for her. This fact is established right before he gets gunned down for what seems like no purpose other than protecting Molly from being robbed. Almost immediately, Sam becomes a ghost and misses the opportunity to go to Heaven. When he realizes his killing wasn't random, however, he's determined to continue protecting his grieving partner, with the much-needed help of a storefront psychic named Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg, Rat Race).

Much has already been written about this film and I'd be hard pressed to meet someone who hasn't seen one of the genuine hankies of the past 20 years. Ghost was a smash hit with audiences and for good reason: it was an incredibly entertaining hybrid of numerous genres. True, the film is known primarily as a romance—with the famous pottery-making scene a landmark in motion picture makeouts—but it also successfully incorporates suspense, mystery, drama, and comedy. To say that Goldberg provides all the comic relief would be unfair, as Swayze's facial expressions (some intentional, some not) also garner some major chuckles.

I understand how difficult it would be to make any negative criticisms of Ghost, as they would no doubt be easily shot down by the film's adoring fans. Roger Ebert probably offered the most valid concern—the "soul penetration" concept which allows Swayze to touch his girlfriend one more time before the Big Hollywood Finale. Logic issues aside, I agree with Roger that they should have shown Goldberg instead of Swayze, no matter how queasy it would have made some audiences. In fact, the suspension of disbelief of Ghost is stretched to its limits, and yet the spirited performances (by a truly eclectic cast) is what ultimately wins the viewer over.

Swayze is remarkably restrained and thus very effective in the lead role, even when the aforementioned facial reactions cause as many snickers as copies. Moore is good, too, considering the fact that she's restricted by a single emotion. However, the best performance comes from Goldberg. After years of doing bombs (Burglar, Fatal Beauty, The Telephone), the gifted comedienne finally found the role to perfectly exploit her talent…and it paid off handsomely with an Academy Award.

Still, one performance which almost goes unnoticed throughout is Tony Goldwyn as a sinister snake without remorse. Just watch him being intimidated by his onetime best friend and he becomes a virtual kaleidoscope of fear, desperation, and paranoia. He's so good, in fact, you almost feel sorry for him…almost. One other role which you may have forgotten because of its size is the Subway Ghost, played by Vincent Schiavelli (The People Vs. Larry Flynt). In just two scenes, the late Italian actor creates an unforgettable characterization of ghostly repression and solitude that it's almost criminal when you realize he's abruptly discarded for the sake of story. Schiavelli had a knack for lighting up the screen in the smallest of parts and Ghost (as well as one of my favorites, Night Shift) is a perfect example.

While I did view the Special Collector's Edition when it came out, I don't remember much as far as the visual and audio quality is concerned, though I'm sure it was more than satisfactory. Paramount has treated this film like an infant and for good reason, as it remains as much of a cash cow as other studio romances—An Officer And A Gentleman, Flashdance, Top Gun. So, it's really no big surprise the high def treatment is quite clean. Perfect flesh tones, rock-solid blacks, and only occasional signs of speckles and spots in the background (many of them in night scenes) are present in the 1.85:1 anamorphic print with 1080p resolution. The film's many highlights—including the pottery scene—look just lovely, and while there are certain age anomalies (such as Arsenio Hall's little cameo on a TV set), these are largely obliterated by the warm, rich colors and vibrant presentation.

Kudos should also be doled out for Paramount's sonic handling of the score and songs. Maurice Jarre's lush, poignant score fills up your speakers with the TrueHD track, while the film's familiar songs ("Unchained Melody," "I Am Henry VIII, I Am") are given the appropriate boost we've come to expect from high def. There was hardly a hiss or pop detected within the film's soundtrack, and the sound effects involving the clashing of the afterlife and the real world hold up astonishingly well. There are also DD 5.1 tracks in French and Spanish, with subtitles in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Like the visual quality, the audio options serve the film extremely well.

Unfortunately, as with most Blu-upgrades from previous Paramount DVDs, there are no exclusive features…unless you want to count the trailer being presented in HD. Still, the excellent commentary and three featurettes from the Collector's Edition are transferred intact. The first extra is the best, even if it lacks the cordial greetings and closings most participants respectfully do. Writer & associate producer Bruce Joel Rubin talks a lot (maybe too much) about his background before Ghost, with Zucker laughing at times in the background. Still, it's a fun track with the expected mix of behind-the-scenes information and working with cast and crew. The three featurettes don't contain as much meat as I would have liked, as they really come off as small potatoes, each with a different thesis (paranormal, love scenes). Rounding out the extras are a photo gallery, trailer, and an AFI feature on 100 greatest passions which are all negligible but acceptable all the same.

While I like Ghost and have been entertained by it every single time I watch it (complete with a tear or two), it's not one of my genre favorites. It seems a shame that my preferences, such as Ice Castles, Before Sunrise, and Children Of A Lesser God (another Paramount release which hasn't even been blessed with a Special Collector's Edition) may never see the light of Blu-day. Still, Ghost is one of those rare films which has been universally embraced by both genders and emerge as a contemporary classic, thus deserving head-of-line privileges. And yet, I wouldn't recommend picking this up, unless you skipped purchasing the 2007 Special Collector's Edition, simply because you don't get much more your money.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 92

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
Audio Formats:
• TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• English
• English (SDH)
• French
• Portuguese
• Spanish
Running Time: 127 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Blu-ray
• Drama
• Paranormal
• Romance
• Suspense

Distinguishing Marks

• Audio Commentary
• Featurettes
• Photo Gallery
• Trailer HD (New)


• IMDb

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