A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly: Have You Met My Ghoulfriend? is based on R.L. Stine's 2004 book of the same name from his Mostly Ghostly series. The film is a follow-up to 2008's Mostly Ghostly: Who Let the Ghosts Out? The basic concept -- an 11-year-old boy tries to help a brother-sister ghost team find their missing parents -- is the same, but, because of the time elapsed between the two films, there's a new set of actors in the primary roles. Though the movie is promoted as a "spooky," "scary" adventure, only the youngest or most sensitive kids who have a hard time distinguishing between fictional and real violence will actually be frightened by anything that transpires. The villain, a comically grotesque ghoul with sharp teeth and a hissing, menacing cackle, wields his magic (lightning, zaps, fire, and threats) in such an exaggerated way that it's more silly than scary. Dark spooky music follows the heroes into a cemetery and a haunted house; a band of zombies chases them with sharp-edged weapons. The misfit protagonist is teased, bullied, and occasionally subjected to pratfalls and pranks. Adults are all abysmally ineffectual and foolish.
What's the story?
Once again, in R.L. STINE'S MOSTLY GHOSTLY: HAVE YOU MET MY GHOULFRIEND?, Phears (Charlie Hewson) -- a ghoul trapped in a cemetery, whose goal is total power over all things living and dead -- sets out to find the two ghost children who can help him escape and reach that goal. And once again, Max Doyle (Ryan Ochoa), age 11, the current holder of a magic ring that protects ghost children Tara and Nicky Roland, is called upon to save the day. Max has a giant schoolboy crush on beautiful and popular Cammy (Bella Thorne), and he has a lot to lose, particularly if Tara and Nicky don't stop embarrassing him with their unseen-by-others presence. Phears raises a former Moscow circus performer from her grave to inhabit Max's body, retrieve the ring, and catch the Roland kids. It's all happening as Max plans for a first date with Cammy, must pass a tough physical test at school, and is dealing with his always-tormenting big brother. Finally, time is of the essence; all things must be resolved before the rapidly approaching Halloween holiday.
Is it any good?
Other than a few cackles and zaps, this movie is way too silly to be scary, so it never delivers on its essential promise. However, if audiences can ignore the cheesy special effects, stereotypical bullies and teens, a villain who restates his evil purpose time and time again for the benefit of anyone who can't hold a thought for five minutes or more, and amateurish, exaggerated performances (particularly by the adult members of the cast), there's some fun to be had here. Because the hero is "inhabited" by a formerly dead circus performer, some of the acrobatics and tumbling feats will elicit laughter. And invisible-to-all-but-one-person ghosts popping up in scenes to wreak havoc on the leading character's life is a tried-and-true formula for humor. But don't expect logic, motivated behavior, solid characters, or an original story to spoil the filmmakers' desire to produce a cheap and easy sequel in an already popular franchise.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difference between silly-scary, creepy-scary, and frightening-scary. Into which of these categories would you place this movie? Why?
In this film, as in many others, many middle school and high school kids are portrayed as bullies, teases, and, generally, mean-spirited people. Is this true to your experience? Why do you think filmmakers fall back on this concept to provide conflict in a story?
Discuss the teachers and parents in this movie. Are these people like most of the adults in your life? What do you think the filmmakers are hoping to achieve by characterizing adults in this manner?
- On DVD or streaming: September 2, 2014
- Cast: Ryan Ochoa, Charlie Hewson, Bella Thorne
- Director: Peter Hewitt
- Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild action, rude humor, and language
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