A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie uses a well-worn formula recycled from some of Disney's better pictures, notably The Absent Minded Professor. But if you don't mind the retread -- and kids will love it -- the characters are charming and there are funny bits. As a ghost, Blackbeard is about as frightening as Casper with a sword. Don't let the word "ghost" deter grade-school kids. Old Blackbeard isn't very scary or threatening, but he does on occasion set an improper example by drinking, carousing, and cheating. The allure of pirates and the wholesomeness of Disney are a good pairing for preteens and older kids. As far as adult entertainment goes, it's passable, but works best in the company of young ones.
What's the story?
While lodging at the shabby landmark Blackbeard's Inn, Godolphin College's new track coach, Steve Walker (Dean Jones), discovers a spell that releases the pirate's ghost (Peter Ustinov) from 200 years in limbo. As luck would have it, only Walker can see him, which leads to some hard-to-explain mix-ups with the police, the college faculty, and Professor Jo Anne Baker (Suzanne Pleshette), who thinks the coach is nuts but is attracted to him anyway. In order for his rum-guzzling spirit to be put to rest, Blackbeard must perform a single act of charity. Here's an idea: Why not save the beloved old inn from falling into the clutches of Silky Seymour and his thugs, who want it torn down to build a casino on the property?
Is it any good?
This movie's tired formula is all too familiar. A losing track team. A real-estate-hungry villain. A man of strong moral fiber who, purely by chance, comes up with a miraculous way to make everything right. Yes, Disney veteran Robert Stevenson has basically remade his own 1961 great The Absent-Minded Professor by taking out the Flubber and putting in a dead pirate.
As Blackbeard's ghost, Peter Ustinov anything but frightening. He's just "a big ugly booze-soaked rummy," and something of a crybaby, too. Far more menacing is casino-owner Silky Seymour (Joby Baker), who's oilier and more enjoyably sinister than most live-action Disney villains of the era. Dean Jones is very agreeable, if a bit short-tempered, as the poor sap who gets caught in the middle of everything, and love interest Suzanne Pleshette is also quite charming.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they think of Blackbeard. He is a pirate, but does that excuse him from stealing, cheating, and destroying police property? And what of Coach Walker, who's opposed to Blackbeard's supernatural dallying at the track meet, yet allows it, even encourages it, albeit for the greater good?
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