TIFF 2012: Ghost Graduation – Javier Ruiz Caldera


I have to admit, I was secretly really excited to see this movie, but part of me was worried that it wouldn’t be as good as I hoped it would be.  The plot description was, essentially, written for my 80’s-lovin’ self:  Five students – a rebel, a jock, a pretty and popular pregnant girl, a smart nerdy girl and a geeky outcast kid – were sent to serve detention in their high school library while the rest of the school partied in the gymnasium.  Sound somewhat familiar?  Well here’s the twist!  There was a fire, and all 5 kids were died in that library – and they have been stuck in school since the 80’s!

Enter hapless teacher, Modesto (Raul Arevalo), who has been unable to hold down a job because he believes himself to be crazy – he can see dead people.  So when the pretty principal of a school that’s being terrorized by its ghostly former students asks for his help in getting the forever teenaged apparitions to leave, he comes up with the perfect plan to aid them in moving on.  He decides to help them pass their final exams and graduate.

I was on board with this film as soon as the opening notes of Total Eclipse Of The Heart introduced us to young Modesto back in the day, and for me the fun of the ride stayed with me long after the end credits rolled.  This was a film made by fans of 80’s movies, FOR fans of 80’s movies.  There are references throughout which pay homage to all of our favourites, but it’s also updated and creative enough to appeal to teenaged viewers today.  The soundtrack is awesome, of course, and it’s a lot of fun to watch the ghost kids learn about things today like computers and iPhones and where all of their favourite celebs have ended up all these years later.

Somehow, with Ghost Graduation, Caldera has managed to pay tribute to some of our favourite 80’s flicks, while also creating something new and uniquely his own that can play successfully to today’s audiences.  At the screening, it was announced that Will Smith’s company had picked up the rights to do the remake, but honestly, I hope North American viewers still get the chance to see the original version, if they so choose.  It’s so much fun, and some of those kids look like they were plucked right out of an 80’s movie as it is!

I won’t give away any of the hilarious bits that added so much to the movie as a whole, but suffice it to say that all of the characters are quite enjoyable – even the quirky ones (or maybe especially those) – and viewers will find themselves rooting for pretty much all of them, living and dead, to find their way giddily to whichever stage of life is next for them.  If you grew up in the 80’s and/or love and miss the films they made back then, go watch Ghost Graduation – because at least one person has made a movie the way they used to, and it’s impossible NOT to have a fantastic time with it!

Ghost Graduation is screening as part of the Toronto International Film Festival Friday, September 14, 2012 at 6:45pm.

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