Grafting “The Sixth Sense” onto “The Breakfast Club” and making it work sounds like a tough call, but the makers of “Ghost Graduation” have pulled it off. This sophomore effort from Javier Ruiz Caldera, the helmer of the uneven-at-best parody “Spanish Movie,” creates a loopy, frenetic world it entirely believes in. The result is a fresh, slick slab of entertainment whose roster of tube stars has ensured solid domestic B.O., but there’s enough universal fun here to suggest “Ghost” could live on in remake form.
Schoolteacher Modesto (Raul Arevalo) has a special skill that has effectively ruined his life: He can see and communicate with ghosts. But his abilities are finally put to good use when he’s hired to investigate wacky goings-on at a high school haunted by a gang of teens who died in a fire in 1986, just before they were about to graduate.
Much “Back to the Future”-style time-travel comedy ensues, though it does seem anachronistic to name one of the dead teens, disco animal Pinfloy (Javier Bodalo), after a 1970s prog-rock band. (“Michael Jackson’s dead,” Modesto informs them. “That’s a shame,” Pinfloy replies. “I spent a night at his ranch.”)
By talking to the dead father (Luis Varela) of his shrink (popular comic Joaquin Reyes), Modesto learns the gang is in a kind of limbo. Until they can pass their final course, they’re not free to leave the school. After some resistance from tough guy Dani (Alex Maruny), the spectral students decide to let Modesto teach them.
Things flow smoothly from setpiece to setpiece, with regular chuckles along the way. Pic is less successful recycling standard material from ’80s high-school comedies, but the scenes in which the dead meet the living generate much sly verbal and visual humor. Cristobal Garrido and Adolfo Valor’s intelligent script takes its own outlandish propositions very seriously, so that even a tremulous love story between Goth girl Elsa (Aura Garrido) and dead hunk Jorge (Jaime Olias) seems credible, introducing an unexpected note of tenderness.
Perfs are fine, with Arevalo confirming himself as a standout Spanish comic thesp. As the pompous, fussy head of the school’s PTA, Carlos Areces is likewise enormously entertaining. Silvia Abril’s turn as a secretary reps a weak point, however, appealing only to Spanish auds’ undying love of slapstick.
Score is undistinguished, but the tongue-in-cheek use of pop songs is spot-on, with Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and plenty of ’80s Spanish power pop calculated to provoke much teen-parent bonding.