Sunday, 2 July 2017

Movie Review: High Spirits (1988)


An inane comedy, High Spirits wastes an impressive cast on a juvenile story smothered by a glut of special effects.

In Ireland, the dilapidated Plunkett Castle is facing foreclosure. In desperation, owner Peter Plunkett (Peter O'Toole) decides to leverage the castle's reputation for ghosts and sell a phoney experience to unsuspecting tourists. He trains his staff to play-act the roles of goblins and witches. The first batch of American tourists arrive, including bickering couple Jack and Sharon (Steve Guttenberg and Beverly D'Angelo), as well as a wannabe priest (Peter Gallagher), a nymph (Jennifer Tilly) and a ghost skeptic.

After the fake ghost theatrics prove disastrous, Jack encounters the real ghost of Mary Plunkett (Daryl Hannah), who was murdered on her wedding night by jealous husband Martin Brogan (Liam Neeson) 200 years ago. Jack and Mary fall in love, but have to find a way to be together.

Written and directed by Irishman Neil Jordan, who was fresh off the success of the acclaimed Mona Lisa, High Spirits is what happens when Hollywood throws too much money and influence too soon at an up-and-coming director. Jordan is allowed free reign to inject a lot of Irish and an overdose of special effects into the project, and High Spirits is an unmitigated disaster. Jordan claims the film was butchered by the studio during editing, but it's difficult to imagine any salvageable version emerging from this mess.

The level of overacting is difficult to believe, High Spirits coming across as an ill-conceived macabre play directed at children. All the actors scream their lines, over-emote to distraction, run around as if their hair is on fire, fall down the stairs in antics that stopped being funny in the 1930s, and generally act stupid. They are surrounded by a non-stop stream of cheesy and excessive special effects overused in a manner to suggest grown men were given new technology toys and lacked the basic maturity to apply them in considered doses.

Loud, boring, devoid of laughs and fundamentally lacking any redeeming moments, High Spirits is a colossal fiasco.






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