Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Ghost.”
The Movie: “Ghost”
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg
Director: Jerry Zucker
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) After a young man is murdered, his spirit stays behind to warn his lover of impending danger, with the help of a reluctant psychic.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 74 percent
Brown: From talking babies to Wall Street ghosts, we’re touching on a lot of the cocaine-fueled insanity lately on the JOE-DOWN.
The last time we were here, we watched Kirstie Alley court the worst fathers possible in “Look Who’s Talking.” The answer, obviously, was that Kirstie Alley just needed to be single.
Now in this installment of the JOE-DOWN, we have clay pots, con artists and the afterlife in “Ghost,” a movie that was in the running for best picture in the 1990 Academy Awards. Yeah, this movie was in a category with “Dances With Wolves” (the eventual winner) and “Goodfellas.” And “The Godfather: Part III,” but let’s forget about that mistake.
I’m sure I saw “Ghost” when I was younger… or more likely, I was in the room when someone else was watching it because I wanted to play Nintendo after the credits rolled.
Yeah, everyone knows the pottery scene. No one seems to remember the parts about money laundering or the lessons in poltergeist-ing that take place in the subway.
Also, let’s take a moment to remember this movie was directed by Jerry Zucker, one of the minds behind “Airplane!” and the “Naked Gun” series. That blows my (REDACTED) mind.
Froemming, while I dust off my Righteous Brothers vinyls, give me your initial thoughts.
Froemming: I forgot how much this is barely a romantic movie and is more of a “kill the antagonist in a grizzly way at the end” kind of paranormal movie. I also forgot that at one time, Whoopi Goldberg was a huge star in Hollywood. Man, the times sure have changed.
I saw it when it came out. I think in 1990, everyone in America saw this movie. Parents loved it because of the pottery scene and I enjoyed it for Patrick Swayze haunting two men to death at the end.
Plus, as I have aged, if I were to be a ghost, I have come to the conclusion I would be a crazy one on a subway beating up other ghosts for being in my territory.
Brown, as I ponder why Demi Moore and I had the same haircut in 1990, why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: The movie opens with us going into a dusty loft in Manhattan. We got three people — Sam (Swayze), Molly (Moore) and their friend Carl — renovating the place. And by that, I mean Sam and Carl are shirtless while wielding sledgehammers while Molly chimes in from time to time to make out with Sam.
It seems like an awful idea to be shirtless during the demolition of an old building. You’re dealing with possible asbestos and, at the very least, splinters all over your body from all the falling wood.
Froemming: Quick, who had the worst cocaine flop-sweat, Carl in this or Henry Hill in “Goodfellas?”
Brown: Henry Hill, if only because cocaine flop-sweat seems more pronounced when scored by Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy.”
Froemming: So, I was confused why they were hammering holes in a building only to find some prime real estate in Manhattan, but I figured cocaine and I moved on. And I was immediately troubled by Carl, who I assume has a real weasel laugh unlike the mock one from this Carl:
We are led to believe these three are good friends, but Carl is obviously the third-wheel who makes all situations awkward, like Denny in “The Room.” He also works with Sam at a bank, so I cannot fathom a reality where this guy is not on cocaine 24-7.
Brown: So we’ve seen a few Patrick Swayze movies on the JOE-DOWN with “Road House,” “Red Dawn” and “Youngblood” and I’ll say this: I prefer my Patrick Swayze in muscle shirts ripping people’s throats out over Wall Street Swayze.
Also, Sam walks towards his office and tells a female co-worker “Hey Susan, you are lookin’ good!”
I think HR will have Sam watch this later.
Froemming: Considering Fred Armisen is in that, maybe they need a new video.
Brown: At home, we get some Foreshadow Theater when Sam laments about waiting for the other shoe to drop since his life is going so well. He also won’t say “I love you” to Molly.
But, he’ll have gross pottery hand sex with Molly with the Righteous Brothers in the background.
Somewhere, Tony Hale is hoping to end Joel McHale.
Froemming: They kinda play up Sam is avoiding saying he loves her because he fears something terrible will happen. He also won’t fly because he sees a plane crash on TV and says these things come in threes.
He is confusing this with celebrity deaths I think. I will chalk it up to the cocaine-banker lifestyle he lives.
Brown: This feels like a good time to mention that I won our college celebrity dead pool thanks to both Patrick Swayze and Ted Kennedy.
Froemming: Well, to be fair, Ted Kennedy was dead on the inside for at least 30 years at that point.
Anyway, Sam starts seeing certain bank accounts at work have too much money, and he has secret codes for these accounts that he doesn’t like sharing with his buddy who always looks shifty. I say that because he is pale, has dark circles under his eyes, sweats a lot and is seemingly paranoid all the time.
Brown: Question: Who’s on more coke: Carl or Holly’s co-worker Harry from “Die Hard?”
Froemming: Carl. Harry seems to manage his addiction better by at least getting a tan.
So he gives a code to him, only to change it the next day because I think Sam is in the beginning stages of planning Carl’s intervention.
Brown: But that’ll have to wait for another day because Sam has to bring Molly to “Macbeth.”
On the way home, the couple is being followed by one of the Orphans from “The Warriors,” who holds up Sam, asking for his wallet. Fueled by a desire to protect Molly and (I assume) a kilo of Columbia’s finest, Sam goes full Dalton and fights with the mugger. I figured he was having flashbacks to Jimmy Reno and ripping the dude’s throat out.
We hear a gunshot and Sam starts chasing the mugger. But, when he turns around, we see Molly crying over Sam’s bloody body.
Froemming: And it was this horrific murder in Crime Alley by Joe Chill that made Molly decide to take up the cowl and fight crime dressed as a bat.
And Sam realizes something is afoot here, as a bright light shines on him, then vanishes and now he is a g-g-g-ghost. A ghost that will probably haunt an amusement park and finally being taken down by these kids and their dog:
Brown: Sam is also fading in and out of things, much like how Marty McFly is starting to fade away in “Back to the Future.”
Look, I’m sure this effect was solid in 1990 but this is another case where high definition really hurts a movie years later. The effects look terrible in this movie. Keep in mind, “Terminator 2” came out two years later and that still holds up nearly 30 years later.
Froemming: I have “T2” on 4K and it mostly holds up 30 years later visually.
At the hospital, Sam sees a distraught Molly finding out her boyfriend was basically DOA and is having a rough go with things. Then some old man ghost starts talking to Sam, saying he is waiting for his wife to die so they can move on. As they watch a gunshot victim or something die in another room, we see that guy ascend to the Great Beyond and we get a brief foreshadow that there is another way ghosts can go out.
Question: So, you just became a ghost. How long before you try to figure out how to screw with your friends, Brown? Me? Right away.
Brown: Oh, you’re being haunted for the rest of your days. I also trust you’ll be in charge of what song plays at my funeral. My guess is the piano coda from “Layla.”
Froemming: We both know how this will go.
So we get to Sam’s funeral, which reminded me of this a bit:
Except Sam can’t give himself away like the Saperstein siblings. He also sees another ghost at this thing, but this one vanishes into a gravestone.
Also, Carl is moving pretty quick on Molly. Beware of the third wheel, people.
Brown: The whole afterlife in this movie seems to work like the “Crossroads” music video from Bone Thugs N Harmony.
And you’re absolutely right: Carl is going right after Molly. Like, Sam’s body isn’t even cold yet and he’s trying to get into her pants.
After Carl leaves with Molly for a walk, we see the murderer from before breaking into the flat in search of something. Molly comes back and the criminal looks to go from a B&E to something more sinister as he watches Molly undress. But Sam remembers that the cat was scared of him as a ghost so *checks notes* he uses the cat to scratch the robber and thwart potential rape.
Yeah… OK. We’ve seen much dumber things on the JOE-DOWN.
Sam follows the murderer and finds out his name: Willy Lopez. In Willy’s apartment, he opens Sam’s wallet and grins at a picture of Molly inside.
… I absolutely think Willy beat off to this picture and Sam watched. Does this count as being cucked?
Froemming: I mean, if he stayed and watched, yes. Yes he was.
After being viciously cucked via auto-erotic pleasure and his awkward voyeurism of that act, Sam walks the mean streets of New York and decides to visit a psychic, because why the (REDACTED) not at this point. So he enters the workplace of Oda Mae Brown (Goldberg), who is conning some poor woman for a quick buck.
I am always baffled how people get conned like this. Then I remember 74 million people voted for Trump last year, and I got even more depressed at how gullible people are.
Brown: My mom used to really be into the show “Long Island Medium,” and I would get so enraged about it. Psychics and cold readers are next-level assholes.
Frankly, “South Park” explains this better.
Along with being an asshole, we find out later that Oda Mae is a con artist on par with Homer Simpson’s mom.
But because we need to advance the plot along, it turns out that Oda Mae can ACTUALLY HEAR Sam!
With Oda Mae as his conduit, Sam wants to relay information and, really, talk to Molly again. Only, he doesn’t calmly persuade Oda Mae into doing this. Instead, he keeps her up all night by singing obnoxiously until she agrees to his demands.
Froemming: Of my issues with this movie, I will say I did enjoy the interaction between Oda Mae and Sam in this. He basically is ruining her life and annoying her to do things for her. It works for me. I mean, I would do this to Brown if I were a ghost, only I would just sing loudly to keep him awake to screw with him. For the rest of his days.
There is a reason Whoopi earned an Academy Award for this role. She is pretty great in this.
So, he convinces Oda Mae to try and contact Molly. She tries the phone at first and is promptly hung up on, like me when I feel a phone conversation is going too long. So she then goes to Molly’s apartment, adding to the trauma she is already going through from seeing her boyfriend gunned down in the street.
Brown: Can you imagine the hell Molly would be going through when this woman’s all “Hey, your boyfriend is talking to me.” This woman is grieving big time and she is absolutely living in a Manhattan apartment she cannot afford as a lowly potter. Her world is CRUMBLING.
So yeah, I felt bad for Molly and her big doe eyes constantly filled with tears because this con artist is being forced to do a ghost’s bidding.
She confides in Carl about this and, naturally, they both are calling it bullshit. To put Molly at ease, Carl tells her he’ll go to Willy’s apartment and confront the killer.
Only, when Carl arrives, it turns out that they were working together on this botched robbery!
Froemming: It was here I wished Sam went off the rails like this.
Yeah, who would have thought a coke-fueled banker with questionable amounts of money in various accounts and is trying to bang his dead friend’s S/O shortly after his murder would be a bad guy?
Also, we skipped over the introduction to the best character of this movie, Subway Ghost. Of all the weird things this movie throws at us, a mentally ill ghost is perhaps the strangest of them all.
Brown: I feel like the Subway Ghost was the father of Steven Wright’s Man on the Couch character from “Half-Baked.”
We’ll see later in the movie that this cranky ghost helps Sam evolve from a mere spirit to a poltergeist in that he can now move objects. But we’ll get to that payoff later.
With no evidence other than the ramblings of a con artist claiming to hear her dead boyfriend in the afterlife, Molly goes to the police. And one of the cops is Stephen Root!
My major problem in this scene is Molly saying that some Puerto Rican guy killed her boyfriend before using his actual name. That’s literally what Butter’s parents do in “South Park” when they think Butters is dead.
Also, New York is a big city with a big Puerto Rican population. Willy Lopez seems like it would be a really common name like, you know, Joe Brown.
Turns out, Willy has no criminal record, but Oda Mae has a rap sheet 10 inches thick.
Froemming: How does one having a rap sheet like that disprove all the private things Oda Mae was saying? I am starting to suspect Molly might have an issue with people of color, what with the Puerto Rican comment earlier and now this and whatnot. But she is convinced, and during one of Carl’s creepy pop-ins, lets him know she went to the police about the information.
Also during this pop-in, he takes off his tie and pours coffee in his shirt like he is Jimbo Jones or something.
Brown: Again, Sam is moments away from being brutally cucked before his rage results in a framed photo of he and Molly being knocked over, effectively cock-blocking his murderer and his widowed girlfriend.
Then, we get what is best described as a training montage from Sam and the Subway Ghost learning how to be a poltergeist.
And because it’s been a while since we’ve had Whoopi Goldberg in this movie, Sam asks her for another favor. Finding out that Carl is putting all this money from the random accounts into an account for a (fake) Rita Miller, Sam has Oda Mae pose as Rita Miller and close her account at the bank to the sum of $4 million. Because it’s blood money, that money is donated to the Catholic church, much to Oda Mae’s protests.
Gee, a wealthy Wall Street white guy finds a way to screw a poor black woman out of a fortune. Who woulda seen that coming?!
Froemming: Am I the only one troubled by ghosts being able to commit felonies? This is felony No.1 from Sam, fraud and swindle. And poor Oda Mae could face a jail sentence for this. Felony No. 2 comes later, when Sam basically commits murder.
Also, Molly saw Oda at the bank, which when she lets Carl know later, puts things in motion for more felonies for Carl and one more for poor, dead Sam.
Brown: Don’t forget that Sam is basically trying to get Carl whacked for his role in Sam’s murder. I mean, I get why, but trying to have it so your former friend gets his guts stomped in like Billy Batts doesn’t make you right, Sam.
Froemming: He’d probably get away with that if this was in Florida.
Well, Oda Mae is minding her business with her sisters when, because of Molly ratting her out like Henry Hill did to Jimmy Conway, Willy and Carl think she has the $4 million check. So, Sam was wrong yet again saying this could not be traced back to her. She now has a murder and a coked-up banker at her apartment building, causing all sorts of problems.
Sam shows up, and starts haunting Willy by poking him and making things fall all around him. Willy then runs to the streets, where Sam continues his torment on the guy, until he runs into traffic and is sandwiched to death by two vehicles.
Sam did this. Sam drove this man to his death. Eye-for-an-eye? I guess, but that is some cold-blooded (REDACTED). And we see Willy get dragged to Hell (I assume) by shadow monsters or something.
So yup, there is Felony No. 2 for old Sam.
Brown: This is all I could think of when Willy gets killed.
There’s still one more loose end to deal with in Carl, who earlier figured out that Sam was ghosting around. He made threats (to a ghost) that if he didn’t get the check that night, Carl would go to the loft and slit Molly’s throat.
WIth Oda Mae continuing to live this hell, Oda and Sam go to the loft to warn Molly. Molly isn’t biting until Oda Mae gives more insider info and Sam floats a penny over to Molly.
This leads to Sam using Oda Mae’s body to touch Molly one more time. It’s sweet, but part of me was really hoping that we’d see Molly and Oda Mae do the clay scene for the hilarious girl-on-girl recreation.
This reunion, however, comes to a screeching halt when Carl arrives, packing heat.
Froemming: At least using Oda Mae’s body was consensual, unlike Chris Pine and Wonder Woman did to the poor bastard he took over in the lousy “WW84.”
Carl is flop sweating and shooting the lock off the door to get in, which means he is doubling-down on getting busted since this seems like a nice area of the Big Apple. Oda Mae and Molly flee to the loft as this coked-up gunman with nothing to lose chases them demanding money like Mel Gibson in “South Park.”
Sam is somewhat weakened by his possession thing, but is able to start fighting with Carl to help the love of his life and the woman whose life he has ruined. But, I will say, Carl basically kills himself via window like a chucklehead, so Sam is off the hook on that one.
Also, that is a pretty violent and bloody death in a movie that was sorta sold as a romance movie.
Brown: Yeah, that was… excessive violence.
Now, with his death avenged, Sam can now go to heaven. He says his goodbyes to Oda Mae and Molly, who both can finally see Sam and his terrible special effects.
Part of me was hoping that Sam would say with his final words to Molly: “I won’t be OK if you date again!”
But I posit this: there is no (REDACTED) way Sam Wheat goes to heaven. He’s both an ‘80s Wall Street yuppie and a man who has facilitated two murders within, what, an hour of each other? He’s approaching Patrick Bateman levels of ‘80s evil, man.
Sam Wheat should be in hell, ladies and gentlemen. Instead, he gets to go to heaven, which looks not much different than the light tunnel sequence from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
And with that, let’s get to recommendations before we’re dragged away by the shadows.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: As far as romantic movies we’ve watched on the JOE-DOWN, this is one of the best. Give it a watch. It’s an adequate movie.
Froemming: Yup. It is pretty good. There is a reason Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar for this.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: