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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly
R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly
Universal // PG // September 30, 2008
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Cornelius | posted October 29, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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"Mostly Ghostly" is mostly something alright, but ghostly it ain't. Mostly Crappy, perhaps. Or Mostly Pointless. Mostly Boring, definitely.

The full title is "R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly: Who Let the Ghosts Out?", which reminds us that a) the movie is adapted from the first in Stine's recent book series, and b) eight-year-old jokes about Baha Men songs appeal to no one. The books, one of Stine's various post-"Goosebumps" efforts, follow 11-year-old Max Doyle (played here by Sterling Beaumon) as he discovers two child ghosts, Nicky (Luke Benward) and Tara (Madison Pettis), haunting his house. They don't remember how they became ghosts or where their parents went, and with Max's help, they'll try to solve the mystery while fighting the villainous ghost/demon/creature Phears, who wants to set himself free to cause havoc in the world of the living.

As a film, "Mostly Ghostly" arrives as something of a Disney Channel also-ran; the direct-to-video project was picked up by the cable outlet to run as low-cost schedule filler, with all the crumminess such a position implies. Behind the camera is director Richard Correll, veteran of numerous terrible sitcoms, many of them among Disney's worst: "Cory in the House," "Zack and Cody," "That's So Raven," etc. Those titles should clue you in as to the uninspired mess to be found here; laughs are bland, kid-friendly scares are blander, and the story's such a muddle that even indiscriminate young viewers will find too little to keep their interest.

Stine's tale - adapted by Correll and Pat Proft (who previously wrote a heap of those awful Leslie Nielson parody movies) - is a big part of the problem here, relying on cheap formula, one-dimensional characters, and a story that never really goes anywhere. The first two might have been forgivable had the rest of the project shown a hint of charm or energy or inventiveness, but there's just no desire to produce anything more than a quick cheapie. This leaves most plot points tedious and/or meandering, while others - dad (David DeLuise) savagely ridicules Max's love for stage magic until, of course, the talent show finale, when he realizes his fruity son just might be able to become popular without playing sports - reveal a crassness that's easy to loathe.

Worse, at 98 minutes, "Mostly Ghostly" takes a 30-minute premise and stretches it too far, too thin. Kids will get fidgety waiting for the good stuff while Max and his ghost friends wander about town, getting revenge on bullies, engaging in minor conflicts with Phears (Brian Stepanek, hiding under chintzy monster makeup), and figuring out ways to make Max popular with the in crowd. There's too little going on here, and whenever something does happen, it's so uneventful that we can't care.

Max's "get popular" plan hinges on his crush for middle school tween queen Traci, a plan that is undone by the casting of Ali Lohan in the role. In a movie filled with terrible performances, Lohan wins easily, monotoning her way through a charmless, at-least-she-kinda-remembered-her-lines caliber performance.

Of course, Lohan gets stiff competition, especially from the poor kids playing the ghosts. It's not enough that the characters are so obnoxious that you quickly become convinced that the parents aren't so much "missing" as they are "wise folks who hightailed it when they could;" we also must endure the constant cutesy-pie mugging of young Pettis and all the irritating overacting that goes with it.

The DVD

Video & Audio


Despite its noticeably low budget, "Mostly Ghostly" looks pretty decent in this 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors are crisp and detail is clear, even if this does make the clumsy visual effects stand out even more. A 1.33:1 pan-and-scan version is also included, for those who prefer such things.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby 5.1, although the action is kept up front so much that it might as well be a stereo mix. Dialogue is even, with music and effects nicely balanced. Optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are included.

Extras

None. A few previews play as the disc loads.

Final Thoughts

Had "Mostly Ghostly" been a pinch more energetic, its flaws may have been forgivable in that kid-movie kind of way. But there's not a minute of screen time that doesn't come across as lazy and unappealing, which only emphasizes the cheap story and bad acting. Even the youngest of viewers won't want to bother with this one. Skip It.
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