DIRECTOR: MIKE AHERN | SCREENPLAY: MIKE AHERN, DEMIAN FOX | STARRING: MAEVE HIGGINS, BARRY WARD, WILL FORTE
Extra Ordinary opens with weathered VHS footage of a paranormal phenomenon show from the ‘90s, documenting the hauntings and strange happenings that are possible in small-town Ireland, which carries with it a warmth and familiarity and a series of laugh out loud lines and images. This doesn’t just set the tone for the whole film, it sets a bar which Extra Ordinary just keeps meeting.
We flash forward to the present day where Rose Dooley (Higgins), the daughter of the TV show’s host and ghost hunter, is trying to put ‘all that’ behind her and pursue a normal life and career as a taxi driver, still blaming herself for the ‘dadslaughter’ of her father and is afraid of the forces she could unleash. When approached by local widower Martin Martin (Ward) for ‘driving lessons’, Rose is tempted back to using her powers, before the appearance of (literally) diabolical failed pop star Christian Winter (The Last Man on Earth’s Will Forte enjoying himself way too much in the role) forces her hand.
In the role of Rose, Higgins is perfectly balanced, relatably unsure of herself, and playing the role so utterly straight at times that you forget quite how silly the whole set up is and her chemistry with Ward is compellingly sweet. In fact, overall, the ordinary characters are beautifully (and hilariously) observed and all given something to love about them, for all their otherwise obvious flaws. This could easily have been a portrait of a wacky small-town Ireland filled with loveable idiots, grotesques and haunted wheelie bines (although you won’t be disappointed on this last score) but instead is filled with love and respect for even characters who seem to be eccentric to the point of mad (Rose’s Dad) or controlling to the point of abusive (the ghost of Martin’s dead wife, Bonnie), or Martin who is inherently good but also a horrible moral coward and Rose is lonely, riddled with guilt, lacking in the practice of meaningful self-care but actually quite a good driving instructor. It also isn’t afraid to make jokes about willies when it has to. Because willies are funny.
If there is a criticism it is that, for this writer, Rose and Martin’s ghostbusting exploits with wheelie bins were way more entertaining than the satanic pop star Christian Winters’ evil plot, and the latter, although the central driver of the plot, sometimes felt too dominant.
It’s not necessarily the greatest film in the world but it is hilarious, warm-hearted and , as a celebration of ordinary people and their victory over the greedy, powerful and selfish (and diabolical forces of darkness), Extra Ordinary really is genuinely extraordinary. This is the Ghostbusters franchise we need for the 21st century. More please. And soon.