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I Downloaded a Ghost

Rogue Reviewers Roundtable Review: July ‘05 – Ghost Stories

http://www.roguereviewers.com/roundtables.html 

Ghost movies are a dime a dozen, especially in this day and age where spooky children see dead people and a new remake of a Japanese ghoul tale gets approved every few weeks. So when it came time for me to pick a ghost-related flick for the latest Rogue Roundtable, I was adrift at sea. How could one pick from such a vast array of titles, especially when they looked universally terrible? In the end my decision was made when I spotted a dopey looking film called I Downloaded a Ghost, which ended up giving me more trouble than it was ever worth.

In true haunted fashion, the VHS copy of Downloaded refused to play, spitting and pulling itself in and out of my VCR multiple times before I was forced to yank it out with my bare hands. Now the tape was thoroughly ruined and my blood was boiling. I’m not one to be embarrassed when it comes to renting stupid cinema, so I stormed back to the Blockbuster from whence this movie came and demanded a refund. And what did I do with this refund? I rented the DVD edition, of course.

Now while I can’t fairly say this is one of the worst family films I’ve seen in many a moon, it was still quite an exercise in patience. Unlike other genres, where a modicum of talent and sensibility is encouraged, the family film can easily get by on stupid humor, bad acting, and a skeleton of a script. Downloaded is such a film, a thinly veiled take on the Home Alone genre wherein a couple of imbecilic crooks chase some kids for 90 minutes and fall into all kinds of zany situations. Don’t worry, there’s a ghost here somewhere, but you’ll have to keep reading.

Winston is a cab driver, but his dream is to become a stand-up comedian. We learn this information because he helpfully looks at an advertisement for an Open Mike session at a local comedy club. Meanwhile Winston’s latest passengers, the bumbling thieves, are stealing a cat statue with all the ease and subtlety of a Howie Mandell performance. In traditional fashion, one of the burglars is a skinny hard heart and the other is an obese oaf with a penchant for food. Laughing yet?

After swiping the statue they pile into the cab and speed away, and for the next two minutes Winston makes them listen to his stand-up routine. I realized the writer was trying to be satirical here, with the jokes being of the “Have you ever noticed?” variety, but Winston was annoying nonetheless. I cringed upon realizing Winston would be the Joey Gladstone of the film, a character who makes everyone in his celluloid world laugh but is painfully humorless to any thinking audience. What makes this really sad is that Winston is played by Carlos Alazraqui, who is sincerely funny as Deputy James Garcia on the Comedy Central series Reno 911!. Carlos, I know the utilities bill needs to be paid, but come on, man.

Oh yeah, the ghost. I suppose I should talk about the ghost. Okay, so Winston’s cab gets pulled over by the police and the wacky thugs manage to run away without any cops deciding to pursue them. Instead they corner Winston, who stupidly finds the statue in the back of his cab and decides to run away as well. This immediately implicates him with the real criminals, especially since he puts the statue in his jacket, but he doesn’t want to miss his chance for stand-up fame, ya see. Further proving Winston’s imbecilic nature, he jumps in front of a bus and dies upon impact. Thus, a ghost is created.

So what’s this whole downloading angle the movie is trying to push? Well you have this kid, and her name is Stella Blackstone. She’s into designing monsters and creature effects, so much so she practically lives in a workshop set up in her parent’s garage. Stella really wants to win this year’s haunted house competition, you see, but doesn’t have an advantage over the neighborhood rich girl. One night while surfing the Web she happens upon a site that allows her to, you guessed it, download the ghost of cab driver/wannabe comedian Winston. A quick query: How is it the Internet never looks authentic in film? I swear, every time I see someone online in a movie it looks like a program for children, complete with gigantic icons and obvious menu options.

Getting back on track, there are so many problems with this premise it’s astounding, and they mostly have to do with the site Stella visits. It is quite literally a portal to the world of the dead, but no one acts like this is substantially out of the ordinary. They think it’s odd, sure, but not amazingly phenomenal as most would react. Even Winston shrugs off his being sucked out of a computer. Heck, he doesn’t even seem to care about being dead. This mundane sensibility when regarding the supernatural is a bit off-putting, is all I’m saying.

The site also has these random rules about why people are ghosts and what they have to accomplish if they want to pass over to the “other side.” For example, it claims people become ghosts when they have unfinished business, but they only have three days to do so or they’ll forever roam the Earth in a limbo state. To top it off, Winston can make himself visible to anyone he wishes. Where the heck are these rules coming from? Does Death itself act as this site’s Webmaster? Yes, this is a film for kids, but I’m going to be stubborn and demand some answers.

For those who are still interested, the rest of I Downloaded a Ghost consists of Stella, her super-smart pal Albert, and Winston trying to locate the statue so he can go to heaven or whatever after-life locale exists in this crazy universe. There’s an assortment of gags that were a tad amusing, but for the most part the movie has no idea how to balance the kid/adult humor. Winston is little more than a low rent Genie from Disney’s Aladdin, doing bad impressions of Billy Crystal, Bill Clinton, and even Marlon Brandon from A Streetcar Named Desire (because his pal’s name is Stella, ya see). The wit in the script wants itself to be known so badly it seems to be screaming, making the jokes simply grating.

I should know better than to knowingly rent a dinky family film and act surprised when it lives up to its dinky reputation, but yet here I am, writing thousands of words about ghosts, cat statues, and obese burglars. From now on I’m going to treat my trips to the video store with a bit more caution and sensibility, since life’s too short to go after the biggest, dumbest fish in the barrel. I Downloaded a Ghost, you sure did stink, but at least you tried to stop me from making my mistake.

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One comment

  1. I’m glad to find a review of this, as I expected it seems to be pretty mediocre going by your review. I only looked it up because the skinny burglar was played by one of the three Tuxedo Mask voice actors.



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