(1990, Drama/Romance/Fantasy/Comedy, color)
Janet Varney and Cole Stratton
See a penny, pick it up. If it floats toward you, run like f---!
In a Nutshell:
A deceased Patrick Swayze haunts his girlfriend while solving his own murder.
First we meet our three leads: Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) is a bank accountant. Molly Jensen (Demi Moore) is his artistic live-in lover and Carl Bruner (Tony Goldwyn) is his best friend/immediate subordinate at the bank. The movie starts slowly, boringly even, as Sam discusses his feelings and has messy pottery clay sex with Molly. Interspersed with the honey-soaked tenderness we see him joke and work with Carl. Sam has to transfer a large sum of money to another bank at the last minute before a big meeting. He runs out of time and gives Carl his password to do it for him.
The next day, Sam discovers strange imbalances in the bank’s accounts, and locks all other users out to investigate. When Carl asks why the password doesn’t work anymore, Sam confides that he suspects malfeasance of some sort. Carl asks where Sam will be that night. Sam says he’ll be out at the theater with Molly. Cut to the aforementioned theater excursion, after which Sam is shot and killed in an alley. Sam’s spirit leaves his body and starts to walk towards a beam of light, but turns back to Molly’s cries.
Thereafter, his ghost invisibly follows her while both of them mope—until the mugger who killed him breaks into the house to look for something. Sam frightens a cat (which, apparently, can see ghosts) which scares the mugger away. Sam follows the mugger home, finds out his name and address, and goes looking for someone to tell.
He finds Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), a fraudulent spiritualist preying on gullible ethnic bit players in a psychic storefront. Sam discovers that Oda Mae can hear him and sings “Henry the Eighth” for hours on end until she agrees to help him. She goes to Molly, convinces her with life details that only Sam could know, and then gives her the name and address of the mugger. Molly tells Carl, who gets upset, but promises to check it out. Sam follows him to the mugger’s house and discovers what every reasonably observant viewer has already guessed—Carl is the one behind the accounting irregularities, and hired the mugger to kill Sam before he could find out. He needs to transfer four million dollars of newly laundered money back to the mob, but can’t actually do it until he finds Sam’s password.
Sam realizes he needs better firepower if he’s going to protect Molly and punish Carl. To this end, he seeks out a subway-dwelling poltergeist to learn how to move objects despite his ghostly form. By the time he’s done, Carl has found Sam’s little book of passwords at Molly’s house himself, and has transferred the money to a fictitious person named Rita Williams in preparation for its upcoming delivery to the mob. Sam goes back to Oda Mae. He convinces her to pose as Rita Williams, withdraw the money and donate it to charity.
Carl is frantic until Molly mentions that she saw Oda Mae claiming to be Rita Williams in the bank that day. When Molly leaves, the ghost of Sam starts pushing him around with his new powers. Carl realizes he’s being haunted and threatens to cut Molly’s throat if the money isn’t returned by a certain time. He and the mugger go to find Oda Mae, but Sam gets there first and warns her. Sam uses his poltergeist powers to frighten the mugger into traffic. He’s hit by a car and dies, after which his spirit is dragged to hell by shadow demons.
Sam leads Oda Mae back to Molly’s apartment to warn her, which leads to Demi Moore nuzzling a possessed Whoopi Goldberg (excuse me while I vomit—hhhuuuaaaarrrrrggghhh!—okay, I’m better), which leads to a weakened Sam’s Ghost when Carl arrives. The ladies flee to the attic, where they play hide and seek with Carl until Sam recovers his enough of his strength to defend them with his poltergeist powers. Carl somehow pushes himself halfway out a window, which shatters, sending a huge pointed sheet of glass through his midsection. He dies, rises as a ghost, and is promptly dragged to hell by screaming shadows. With Sam’s work on Earth finally done, a heavenly light appears to take him away. Able to see and hear him at last, Molly bids him a tender farewell.
Whoopi Goldberg can act. I know this. I’ve seen her do it before and, okay, she’s no Streep or Hepburn, but she’s perfectly competent when she wants to be. So what the hell is she doing in this film? Oda Mae isn’t so much a character as she is a broad stereotype played by a spastic slab of spiral cut ham. Whoopi packs more mugs for the camera per minute than most comedians get per film. She mugs more than Eddie Murphy. She mugs more than Robin Williams. She mugs more than Bobcat Goldthwaite. She mugs more than Bobcat Goldthwaite! How is that even physically possible?
Here’s a better question: why did the filmmakers let her do this when every other friggin’ actor in this dumb but reasonably engaging film is playing it straight.
Now I have a confession to make. This is kind of difficult for me to admit to myself, let alone the world at large, but here goes... I... I don’t think I like Patrick Swayze movies all that much. The movie is decent enough. It kept my attention and passed the time fairly pleasantly. The commentary is decent too, with Cole Stratton and Janet Varney making quips, snide remarks and drawn out comedy routines every few moments throughout. (Favorite lines: Cole's “I just realized this is going to be a movie with a vulnerable Swayze. I prefer vendetta Swayze.” Later, Cole calls Swayze’s seductive stare the “forbidden squint”. As the shrieking shadows make their appearance, Janet compares the noises they make to “a wookiee making love to a tauntaun”.) I dunno. Mike loves these hunks of Swayze cheese. Judging by the forum chatter, so do most of his fans. But there’s something about Mr. Swayze’s bland eighties machismo that I just can’t enjoy, not even on an ironic level. Is there something wrong with me?
(1990, Drama/Romance/Fantasy/Comedy, color)