Failed fun is probably the worst kind there is. “Ghosted” is meant to be a fun rom-com with fun people trading fun quips amidst fun action sequences. But when all that “fun” turns out to be false, the film becomes a real chore. While stars Chris Evans and Ana de Armas have chemistry, the script is generally awful and further hampered by inept direction and clumsy cinematography/editing. Additionally, the characters are weird in uninteresting ways, and the dialogue that tumbles out of their mouths is awkward and ill-conceived.
Nevertheless, the movie is constantly trying to push its “we’re all having a good time” vibe. There are few things more pathetic than insistent and unearned joy, and Dexter Fletcher’s movie is covered in the flop sweat of desperately trying to convince you that you are enjoying these two hours. “Ghosted” aims for “Romancing the Stone” or “True Lies,” but what it lands on is the grating shallowness of miserable failure.
Cole (Evans) is a farmer with a stall at the market and a broken heart. When he pursues feisty customer Sadie (de Armas), they end up having a magnificent day with each other that ends in an early morning of passion. Cole tries to follow up their whirlwind date with texts and emojis but doesn’t hear back from his dream girl. His sister insists that Cole’s been ghosted, but the hopeless romantic doesn’t believe it and ends up tracking Sadie down in London. He promptly flies over to surprise her, only to discover that, whoops, she’s a spy who is entangled in a deadly struggle for a biohazardous weapon with a rogue agent (Adrien Brody). The two must traverse exotic locales together and evade various villains in order to stop the nefarious plans, get back home and possibly live happily ever after.
Chances are that you pretty much saw the entirety of “Ghosted” in your head just from reading that description. Evans is supposed to be an everyman, an asthmatic farmer pining for love, but is still built like a Greek god and just happens to possess pretty impressive fighting skills (easily waved off with the revelation that “he was on the wrestling team in high school”). While the actor is charming and has strong chemistry with de Armas, he is woefully miscast in the role and seems out of his league with the duties of an exasperated yet hilarious regular Joe caught up in all these covert shenanigans. Ana de Armas, for her part, is well cast and brings an impressive physicality and brashness to the role of the secret agent, but she isn’t great at selling the comedy either. These two trade barbs throughout the movie and are on screen 98% of the time. It’s a bit of an issue.
The film was penned by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers (who wrote the MCU “Spider-Man” movies) and Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (of “Deadpool” and “Zombieland” fame), and though it’s a boring chore of a script, director Dexter Fletcher does nothing to help it. Sure, he brings in a lot of familiar faces for cameos, but all that does is elicit a brief aha moment before moving on to some new, unengaging set piece. Between this and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Fletcher has shown that he has terrible instincts when it comes to camerawork and editing, annoyingly chopping up potentially interesting moments, utilizing wretched CG or deploying DP Salvatore Totino to capture some possibly impressive stunts in the most bungled and lackluster way possible. There are seriously a few stunts that look like they would’ve been cool to witness if only the camera had been positioned anywhere else or awful CG wasn’t used to enhance the moment. It’s maddening.
“Ghosted” is incredibly formulaic, and you can pretty much assess where it goes and how it gets there just from the above summary. But that’s not the problem. Formula isn’t inherently bad, but when the formula is awkwardly populated and full of failed humor and lifeless action, then you’ve got problems. And “Ghosted” has so many problems. There are muddled metaphors, dropped plot points, poorly conceived developments and mishandled arcs aplenty. Movies don’t have to conform to particular narrative paths, but any deviation should result in some result other than befuddlement and frustration.
“Ghosted” is full of beautiful people who ostensibly possess some level of charm. While the cinematography and editing are lackluster, the movie is at least comprehensible. Furthermore, there are no blown lines (even with the disappointing dialogue), the cast is really trying, and there is a palpable chemistry between the two leads that seems to defy the film itself. These are the reasons that the score for Fletcher’s movie isn’t lower. Everything else about this supposedly fun diversion is a miss. “Ghosted” doesn’t understand meet-cutes, romance or espionage, or for that matter, presenting these things in ways that approach entertainment. There is so much squandered opportunity that one can’t help but wish the whole film had been left on read.
Starring: Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Mike Moh, Tate Donovan, Amy Sedaris, Lizze Broadway, Mustafa Shakir, Tim Blake Nelson, Marwan Kenzari
Director: Dexter Fletcher