Jerry Zucker has directed films (Airplane!, Ruthless People) in tandem with his brother David and their friend Jim Abrahams, but now Jerry’s going solo. He says the Bruce Joel Rubin screenplay for Ghost — about the love between the living and the dead — is “unlike anything I had read before.” Obviously, Zucker never read the scripts to Blithe Spirit, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, to name just three classic movies with the same theme. And there have been many sentimental botch jobs, including Kiss Me Goodbye, Chances Are and Steven Spielberg’s dreary Always.
Ghost belongs with the treacle. Sam (Patrick Swayze) and Molly (Demi Moore) are an annoyingly fashionable New York couple: She sculpts, he banks. They dance to oldies like “Unchained Melody.” But when Molly says, “I love you,” Sam can only answer, “Ditto.” He finds it hard to express emotion. That is, until he’s murdered. Then Sam’s feelings flow. But only a fake medium, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), can hear him. So Sam requests Oda’s aid to save Molly from being the murderer’s next victim.
Zucker dutifully pushes all the buttons — romance, thrills, laughs, tears — that have been pushed before by more assured hands. Swayze and Moore are attractive but mannered and self-involved in a way that works against instilling a sense of mutual loss. Though saddled with hoary jokes, Goldberg at least pumps some funky life into the bland proceedings. There’s little else to admire except some nifty special effects of spirits rampaging through the subway. For the rest, Ghost succeeds only at being insubstantial.