Based on the Noel Coward play of the same name, this romantic comedy is a fun-filled, delightful fantasy that is neither edgy nor offensive.
This polished remake of the 1945 film takes its title from the line “Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! Bird thou never wert.” in the Percy Bysshe Shelly poem ‘To A Skylark.’
Telling the story of Charles Condomine (Dan Stevens), the once successful writer who is now suffering from a lack of inspiration for his screenplay.
In desperation, he decides to invite the highly eccentric, spiritual medium Madame Arcati (Judi Dench) to his home to conduct a private séance after attending one of her less than convincing vaudeville performances.
As the cynical sceptics, Charles, his wife Ruth (Isla Fisher), and their guests, George (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and Violet Bradman (Emilia Fox), do little to conceal their sarcastic sniggers as Madame Arcati performs her extremely questionable ceremony and eventually goes into a barely believable trance enticing the afterlife to join them.
Charles is alarmed when he is convinced he hears the voice of Elvira (Leslie Mann), his dead wife. Trying to believe it is nothing more than a prank, he soon realises something is not right when he discovers that the others cannot hear her.
Clearly disturbed by the incident, he attempts to pass it all off as the result of his over active, imagination. Reluctantly, he eventually dismisses the entire episode.
When Madame Arcati recovers from her trance, to her surprise she is convinced that she has ‘made contact” with the other side.
After being confronted by her less than professional, hysterical behaviour, everyone politely humours her, thanks her for the night’s entertainment, and is sent on her way.
Still tormented by what he believes he heard, Charles unsuccessfully attempts to convince Ruth of Elvir’s presence. She attributes his divisional rantings to stress and retires for the night.
When Elvira materialises later that night, Charles is both intrigued and alarmed by the situation. This is where the story takes full flight, and the situation becomes spiritually comedic.
Desperately trying to ignore the seductive advances from the ghost of his past wife while frantically trying to maintain a loving relationship with his present wife, he is thrown into one amusing situation after another.
If all that isn’t enough, Charles is also failing spectacularly at writing a movie script for Ruth’s father, a Hollywood producer.
As Charles and Ruth’s relationship undergoes increasing pressure, it becomes evident that when alive, Elvira was not only Charles’s muse but ironically his ghost-writer as well.
Desperate to regain some normality, Ruth reluctantly recruits Madame Arcati once again in an attempt to send Elvira back from where she came.
This is not Oscar material, and the performances are average at best.
But, having said that, I have to acknowledge that I enjoyed this light-hearted romp and found the storyline to be pleasantly nostalgic of a time when love triangles were not smutty; death could be an opportunity for a comedy storyline, and dysfunctional characters were predictably typecast as likeable, and totally non-sinister.
Not really for children, but a family with sensible teenagers could enjoy this harmless flick together.
To view the trailer ‘click’ the link below