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Blog November 2008

Have just watched yet another ghost-ish story, that kept reminding me of Ghost Town (see below). Just Like Heaven featured Reese Witherspoon as a workaholic doctor who has a crash and ends up haunting (sort of) the new occupant of her apartment. It's an enjoyable romantic comedy, though not very innovative. As in Ghost Town the religious aspects of the next life don't figure much. At one stage, in desperation, the new tenant (Mark Ruffalo) hires an exorcist, but I thought that scene was a little tasteless - the priest thunders away calling on the spirit to leave the building by the power of Christ, but his ritual makes no impression (we discover the reason later - it's not that Christ doesn't have the power). The psychic owner of a nearby occult bookshop (another endearingly dopey role for Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame) comes across more appealingly than the priest, and more tuned in to the spirit world. Again there are broad themes of love and redemption (not of a specifically religious kind) but I can't see any major use for it in the classroom (also, it includes some mildly unsavoury sexual elements). The right-to-die issues surfaces, but it's not pushing any particular line. In fact, if anything, it would nudge the audience against being over hasty in switching off life support.

Saw the new film Ghost Town recently and enjoyed it. It's one of those films that deals with the next life without getting very religious about it. The main character, played by Ricky Gervais, had a near death experience and now sees ghosts, and they want him to do their unfinished business, so they can "move on". Unfortunately the Gervais character is a rather selfish type, and doesn't really like his fellow human beings, dead or alive. It won't be everybody's cup of tea and reviews have been mixed, but I laughed out loud at some of the more bizarre scenes and chuckled throughout at the dry and subtle wit. I don't see much potential in it for classroom use, unless perhaps when covering the "last things", though I'm not sure how sound the theology is - all these ghosts hovering around in a sort of purgatory-limbo state, with no sign of God at all. He does get a mention - when "acts of God" are mentioned, Gervais dryly says - "Why does he do those things?". There are broad themes like love and redemption, and certainly belief in an afterlife, and though there are a few rude bits there is a very strong disapproval of adultery - the main ghost (Greg Kinnear) has to come to terms with the harm his adultery has done.