September 13, 2012


Javier Ruiz Caldera‘s Ghost Graduation mashes-up The Sixth Sense, Heart and Souls, and The Breakfast Club, and does so with a big smile on its face.  Happily aware of the clichés of ghost films, Ghost Graduation has plenty of fun embracing the major rules of the genre (body possession, walking through walls, etc.) while still poking fun at the little quirks.  Caldera and his charming cast have created a sweet film that never gets too saccharine, and a nice parody that never becomes too self-aware.

Modesto (Raúl Arévalo) has seen dead people since he was in high school.  As an adult, he has become a frequently-fired teacher as he continues to see ghosts despite medication and therapy.  When a high school begins experiencing an irritating amount of supernatural activity, the open-minded principal, Tina (Alexandra Jiménez), hires Modesto, and they realize that he’s not crazy because the school is haunted by five teenagers from the class of 1986 who died in a fire.  Modesto believes they can’t leave the campus because they have unfinished business, and so he resolves to get his students—bookworm Angela (Anna Castillo), the pregnant Marivi (Andrea Duro), the eternally drunk Pink Floyd (Javier Bódalo), jock Jorge (Jaime Olías), and the rebellious Dani (Àlex Maruny)—to graduate, thus stopping their ghostly antics and allowing the school to return to normal.


Cristóbal Garrido and Adolfo Valor‘s script deftly moves between goofy comedy, off-color jokes, and quick-witted asides, all with a warm personality at the center.  The movie has a lot of fun using the cast’s time-capsule knowledge like when Pink Floyd says he wishes he could have spent the night at Michael Jackson’s ranch.  The film also has fun with its references like making a quasi-match up with the Breakfast Club gang (with Dani and Jorge as the parallels to Bender and Andrew, respectively), but only using the comparison casually rather than trying to constantly callback to John Hughes‘ 1985 picture.

But the majority of humor comes from playing with the touchstones of ghost characters.  Ghost Graduation doesn’t break any boundaries, but it does make lewd little touches to stuff like taking over a human body, throwing around objects, and communicating with the living.  It’s a bit of a stretch to call Ghost Graduation “raunchy”, but it’s certainly not afraid to go with sex jokes, dark comedy, or irreverent humor.  Caldera isn’t trying to upend ghost comedies, but he does want to make sure the emotional stuff doesn’t get too sappy.


And unfinished business stuff in ghost films is always going to be a little cheesy.  It’s about a quest for closure, being at peace with death, and bringing acceptance to the living.  Ghost Graduation can get a little corny, but the actors are so likable that we don’t really mind.  There’s a bit of a snag in the relationship with Tina since she relies too heavily on Modesto, and she seems pretty powerless despite being the head of the school.  She may not have the ability to speak with the dead, but her purpose seems to extend only as far as Modesto’s cheerleader and the target of the pushy PTA head Otegui (Carlos Areces).  Thankfully, Jiménez and Arévalo have strong chemistry, so their romance functions as a nice addition to the film.

Ghost Graduation is the true joy of a film festival.  It’s great getting to see a big fall movies early, but when there’s time to find a movie you haven’t heard anything about, and it turns out to be good, you can’t wait to tell everyone about it.  Last year, I was pleased to find The Awakening, and dead people have come to my aid again with Ghost Graduation.  It’s wonderful to uncover gems like this movie, and I hope more people will have the opportunity to see this clever, funny, and delightful flick.

Rating: B+

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