By Ed Sum
Humphrey was once an ordinary boy with an ordinary life. Well, that is, until he died—quite by accident, really. But just do not tell his best friend, Barnabas, that. His death literally sets in motion The Great Ghost Rescue, a tongue-in-cheek horror comedy from the UK about dislocated spirits looking for a new home.
This movie made a quiet release on this side of the pond with very little fanfare during a Halloween season. Also, this film is by no means a faithful adaptation of Eva Ibbotson’s original novel of the same name, published 1975. And the message it makes about how one particular family can stay strong during a moment of crisis cannot go unnoticed.
While children may not get all of the jokes, older audiences can easily chuckle at the hilarious sight gags and crazy societal dysfunction going on. This production is a blend of the humour from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the grisly silliness from The Addams Family. Even though the laughs are cheap and the acting over the top, this film can be enjoyed when everyone is sharing that same sugar rush after trick or treating.
George, the outlandish screaming skull, steals the show. Along with Mabel (Emma Fielding), who plays one of the heads of an aristocrat (beheaded along with two sisters, due to a failed marriage arrangement); Hamish (Kevin McKidd), the legless Scottish warrior ghost; and Winifred (Georgia Groome), a drowned lady accused of witchcraft, they make up Humphrey’s adopted family. Even though the ghost with the most wants to live a normal life, trouble is lurking when a ghost hunter known as Master Wraith (Bob Goody) wants to off every spirit that he meets. Sadly this particular subplot does not get the spotlight it deserves. Goody is a great actor even for this bit role but the real story fades in and out like the ghostly product this film represents.
The plot comes and goes as frequent as the moments that plays the family camaraderie up for laughs. Sometimes that happens too much and audiences may simply want to get to point. This movie could have been shorter to quicken the pace. Most of the tale deals with the day in the life of four spirits, and it drifts around too much. Until the plot re-establishes itself, at least this film shows off the acting talents of the main cast, including Anthony Head of Buffy fame. But soon enough, Humphrey learns about a terrible secret, and it is up to him to save the ghost community at large.
Despite the hiccups that this movie has for pace, this product can be an enjoyable light-hearted Halloween treat for the entire family. There are a few great cinematographic moments that can easily belong on a big screen and some period clothing to marvel at. To keep a detail like Winifred continuously dripping wet is much appreciated. At least in the UK, there is respect for all the friendly ghosts said to be haunting the land. Give them the respect they want and they will leave you alone.
3 out of 5 Stars