Elliot Hopper (Bill Cosby) is a widowed single dad who is utterly fixated on his familys financial well-being. He spends all his time working to secure a crucial business deal that would put his accounts in the black. However, this leaves his three children pining for his attention. After a fatal car accident, Hopper now a ghost must clinch the deal from the afterlife to secure his childrens futures. Along the way, he discovers all the bonding hed been missing when he was alive.
Ghost Dad is a 1990 American fantasy comedy film directed by Sidney Poitier and starring Bill Cosby, in which a widowers spirit is able to communicate with his children after his death. It was critically panned, and wound up on many critics "worst of 1990" and "worst of all time" lists. The film remains Sidney Poitiers last directorial effort.
Elliot Hopper is a widower with three children, he is currently working on a deal. It seems like his wife illness was very costly and this deal could put them out of the red. However he gets into a cab that is driven by a maniac, and Elliot crashes into a river. Elliot is sent back so that he could finish the deal and make sure that his children are taken care of.
Elliot Hopper (Bill Cosby) is a workaholic widower who is about to land the deal of a lifetime at work, which he hopes will win him a promotion and a company car. After he forgets his daughter Dianes birthday, he attempts to make it up to her by promising her she can have his car when he secures the deal at work on the coming Thursday. After being persuaded to give the car to his daughter early, Elliot must hail a taxi from work, which is driven by Satanist Curtis Burch (Raynor Scheine), who drives erratically and speeds out of control. Attempting to get the taxi stopped, Elliot announces that he is Satan and commands him to stop the taxi. Shocked to see his "Evil Master", Burch drives off a bridge and into the river.
Elliot emerges from the accident scene, but when he approaches a police officer, he learns that he is a ghost when the officer urinates on his shoes, then when he walks into the road, a speeding bus goes straight through him and he endures an old lady on the back seat chomping into a sandwich with her legs far apart coming closer towards him. When he gets home he discovers that his 3 children can see him, but only in a totally dark room, and they cant hear him. He struggles to tell them what happened when he is whisked away to London by paranormal researcher Sir Edith (Ian Bannen), who tells him he is a ghost who has yet to enter the afterlife because "they screwed up"; his soul will not cross over until Thursday.
The pressures of work and family life lead to many comedic events, such as Elliot rubbing meat tenderizer into his face while screaming about the burning in his eyes, as Elliot attempts to get a life insurance policy and complete his companys merger, so his family will be provided for once he crosses over. One day, he must choose between staying in an important work meeting and helping his son with a magic trick at school. He eventually decides that his familys happiness is more important and walks out on his furious boss, Mr. Collins (Barry Corbin), who later fires him. Dejected, Elliot reveals himself as a ghost to his love interest, Joan (Denise Nicholas), whose initial shock soon turns to sympathy.
Edith arrives from London to announce that Elliot is not dead; his spirit jumped out of his body in fright. They also work out that the only previous known case of this happening was Elliots father. In the excitement to find Elliots body to reunite his spirit with it, Diane trips on a pair of skates that her little sister Amanda left on the stairs; she falls and is seriously injured. The family rush her to the hospital where her spirit has also jumped out of her body. As she delightedly flies around, Elliot begs her to re-enter her body; his own has started to "flicker". When he collapses, Diane becomes concerned and races into the intensive-care unit to find her fathers body. She helps him into the room and they discover that Burch had swapped wallets with Elliot, meaning Elliot was wrongly identified by the hospital as Burch. Elliot returns to his body and wakes up; Diane does the same and jumps off the operating table to tell the family what has happened.
As the reunited family leave the hospital, Elliot spots a yellow taxi parked outside and Burch behind the wheel. Delighted to see his "Evil Master", Burch returns Elliots imitation Gucci wallet back. Elliot then tells Burch to go to hell and sit on red hot coals waiting for him "until it snows". Curtis agrees enthusiastically and drives off while Elliot, Joan, Edith and the family leave the hospital.Bill Cosby - Elliot Hopper
Kimberly Russell - Diane Hopper
Denise Nicholas - Joan
Salim Grant - Danny Hopper
Brooke Fontaine - Amanda Hopper
Ian Bannen - Sir Edith
Christine Ebersole - Carol
Barry Corbin - Mr. Emery Collins
Dana Ashbrook - Tony Ricker
Omar Gooding - Stuart
Arnold Stang - Mr. Cohen
Dakin Matthews - Mr. Seymour
Raynor Scheine - Curtis Burch
Early in development, John Badham was slated to direct the film with Steve Martin as Elliot Hopper. However, both Badham and Martin left the project for unknown reasons. As a result, Universal hired Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby to be their respective replacements.
As part of the publicity for the movie, a Ghost Dad novelization written by Mel Cebulash was released the year of the films debut.
The film received widespread negative reviews, with a 7% rating on film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 30 reviews. The consensus states: "A startlingly misconceived effort from director Sidney Poitier and star Bill Cosby, Ghost Dad is a listless, glacially-paced comedy thats alternately schmaltzy and incomprehensible."
Rating the movie half a star out of four, Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert characterized the film thus:
Ghost Dad is a desperately unfunny film - a strained, contrived construction that left me shaking my head in amazement… How could Sidney Poitier, a skilled filmmaker with an actors sense of timing, have been the director of this mess? How did a production executive go for it? Who ever thought this was a good idea?
In the films opening weekend, it earned $4,803,480. Domestically the film earned $24,707,633 and $714,000 at the foreign box office for a total of $25,421,633.
Ghost Dad was released on VHS by MCA/Universal Home Video on December 6, 1990. The film was released on DVD by Good Times Video on May 1, 2001, and as a "Studio Selections" DVD by Universal Studios on March 1, 2005.