Saturday, October 20, 2012

A modern-day Abbott & Costello: Emily Lou Gabriel Diani's cute "ghoster" THE SELLING

Don't know about you, but I was always a fan of the 1940s comedy team of Abbott & Costello. (Ever seen Hold That Ghost with A&C and Joan Davis? Silly fun.) Watching a new low-end, pretty-obvious, and also silly-fun movie titled THE SELLING put me in mind of Bud Abbott (the lean straight man) and Lou Costello (the fat funny one). Not that the two guys at the center of this one are thin and fat, but both are pretty funny and their movie has to do with the duo's trying to sell a haunted house. This is the kind of situation A&C might have encountered has they been making movies today, and I would not be at all surprised if a few people involved in this new film were themselves A&C fans.

The director of the film, Emily Lou (shown at right) and its writer and star Gabriel Diani (shown below and on poster at top) break no new ground with their film, but if you're in a somewhat forgiving mood, there's a good deal of fun to be found here and a relatively high level of professionalism in everything from the writing to the direction, acting, and the production values. Even mild special effects, such as those used here, have come quite a distance from the days of the old black-and-white B-movies inhabited by A&C.

The plot, such as it is, involves everything from an attempted exorcism (Barry Bostwick, below, plays the beleaguered priest) to a seance overseen buy a "ghost rights activist," an overly protective mother, budding romance and cutthroat competition within the real estate company that sets off the plot machinations.

All this proves old-fashioned fun given a modern update that never tries too hard and thus settles for some good giggles rather than all-out belly laughs. Everyone in the cast, nicely differentiated by both the script and the ensemble's performances, creates characters who are interesting and fun, and though the movie offers the usual suspect (a serial killer, 'natch), it never grows bloody or even that scary. Comedy remains forefront.

Worth noting in the cast are Janet Varney (center, left, above) as the prettiest and sleaziest of the brokers, Jonathan Klein (above, left) as our hero's best bud (the Costello role), Nancy Lenehan (above, right) as our hero's mom and especially Etta Devine (center, right, above) as the hapless ghost whisperer.

The Selling, from GoDigital, is available now via all digital platforms, and supposedly also arrives this coming week on DVD, according to Blockbuster, at least -- though I could find it nowhere on Netflix.

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