I don’t believe in ghosts, but if I did, I expect they’d exist the way they do in Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman’s comedy/fantasy feature debut, EXTRA ORDINARY. According to their film, some hauntings are so small we don’t even notice them. A ball will bounce around unseen in the backyard, or a garbage can will open and close by itself. Ghosts are completely ineffectual, unable to garner even the slightest bit of attention as they cry out from the beyond, and when people do take notice, the living want them removed like a minor cockroach infestation. So, the dead remain unwanted and invisible to those around them, much like they were when they were alive.
However, the very much alive and unlucky-in-love driving instructor Rose (Maeve Higgins), would much prefer to be invisible. Like her late father before her, she has a gift for communicating with supernatural entities. She’s constantly called upon to exorcise minor possessions, much to her displeasure. She dodges phone calls and house visits from people hoping she’ll help them with their hauntings, but when Martin (Barry Ward) arrives, Rose makes an exception. While a romance blossoms between them, Rose sets out to help save Martin’s teenage daughter from Christian Winter (Will Forte), a has-been rockstar who’s made a deal with Satan to return his career to its former glory.
Ahern and Loughman blend comedy and supernatural with a familiar Shaun of the Dead and What We Do in the Shadows vibe. EXTRA ORDINARY takes the concept of ghosts and lampoons them cleverly while mixing in a charming personal story. It’s a proven formula, but done well here, and manages to feel entirely fresh. Perhaps it’s because the ghost/comedy element is something that hasn’t been completely run into the ground yet. In fact, there aren’t many ghost-related comedies I can think of off the top of my head. High Spirits maybe? Oh yeah, right, there’s that other one. Ghostbusters.
EXTRA ORDINARY knows it can’t avoid Ghostbusters comparisons, despite being totally different in tone and execution, so it leans into any potential likening with some fun references and winks at the audience. On the whole, the writing is sharp and the jokes mostly hit the spot they were aiming for. With that said, there’s a slight dip in momentum around the middle as it settles into rom-com territory, and conceptually, I feel like some stones were left unturned. There’s a lot of mileage in the “weak-haunting” idea and I think there’s more that could be done with it.
The comedic performances are generally on point, without much obnoxiousness that isn’t intentional, with less mugging for laughs than might be expected. Most of that comes from Will Forte, who makes a surprising appearance brandishing a dick stick. Yes, a large wooden stick with a dick on it. He seems a little out of place, perhaps only because it’s jarring to see an SNL alum in a little Irish film, and that his style of comedy is at odds with the rest of the cast. Ahern and Loughman manage to make it work, though.
The story builds to a perfectly orchestrated… uh… climax that’s worth the price of admission. While some of the stock-standard rom-com elements bring it down in the middle, EXTRA ORDINARY is a confident feature debut that packs a lot of charm. It takes a genuinely original approach to its material and feels fresh throughout. Definitely worth a look if the concept grabs your attention.
EXTRA ORDINARY is part of the line-up at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2019.