Ersatz Spielberg. (Meaning that the Great Man himself -- the Great Overgrown Boy -- the Great Escaped Inner Child -- was only a co-executive producer and was wise enough to leave the directing to an apprentice called Brad Silberling.) The titular "Friendly Ghost" resembles a fattened-up, but see-through, version of the aliens in Close Encounters. The supplementary trio of mischievous, not exactly malevolent, ghosts look like something you'd get in a cone at the Dairy Queen. You get, in addition, some juvenile bodily-function jokes. You get a roomful of toys (electric train, miniature merry-go-round, etc.). You get a secret passage to a secret laboratory designed as an amusement-park ride. You even get a resurrection from the dead. And you get a vision of the universe aglimmer with a boy who will never grow up, a guardian angel, and a gallery of pop-culture icons (cameos for Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Rodney Dangerfield, allusions to Oprah, Ghostbusters, Snow White). So what could you possibly need with Spielberg per se? The special effects, it goes without saying, are marvelous. Or as marvelous as marvelous can be when unconnected to any inkling of taste. Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman. (1995) — Duncan Shepherd
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