GHOST TOWN (2008)
Starring Ricky Gervais, Tea Leoni, and Greg Kinnear
Directed by David Koepp
When I originally saw the trailer for the movie GHOST TOWN, I thought it looked fairly predictable: man has near-death experience, triggering a new and annoying ability to see ghosts. Hilarity ensues. Even though I thought I had the whole romantic comedy angle of this one figured out, I still wanted to see it, simply because the subject matter was right up my alley, and I really wanted to see Ricky Gervais perform.
If you don’t know who Ricky Gervais is, you must be an American. He starred as the obnoxious boss in the original British version of the television show The Office after co-creating the project for the BBC. I’d read nothing but rave reviews of that show, along with his other big project, Extras, which I’d heard him speak about during an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. I expected that Ricky Gervais would be a brilliant comedian, and although GHOST TOWN looked rather mainstream, I rented it from Netflix, hoping for an entertaining couple of hours.
I did enjoy the film, especially Ricky Gervais’ performance. He plays Bertram Pincus, an uptight, misanthropic British dentist living in Manhattan. When he dies during a routine surgical procedure and is resuscitated, he wakes up with the baffling ability to see ghosts. The trouble is, these spirits are being held back from making their transition to the Other Side, and since they suddenly have found someone who can see, hear, and talk to them, they want him to take messages to their loved ones so that they can move on. Pincus, however, wants none of it–he doesn’t like his fellow human beings, and their being dead doesn’t endear them to him in any way. So when Frank (Greg Kinnear), a slick, Blackberry-addicted philanderer, promises Pincus that he can get rid of the other ghosts if the dentist will break up the impending marriage of his widow (Tea Leoni), Pincus reluctantly agrees. And although hilarity doesn’t really ensue, there are some truly funny moments along the way.
Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) tries to hide from all the ghosts in Manhattan.
Ricky Gervais makes an amusing and endearing misanthrope. It’s hard to completely hate him, especially when you learn his backstory and see that he really does have quite a sharp wit. His scenes with Gwen, Frank’s widow, contain clever dialogue and bright acting, even if there isn’t much romantic chemistry between the two of them. And Greg Kinnear makes Frank an entertaining cad who delivers some of the best, most poignant lines in the film. It’s his scenes with Pincus that change the contrary, cynical dentist into a man who finally understands that compassion makes him a better, happier person. From a mediumship standpoint, I found myself shaking my head at the fantasy of it all, but the moments when Pincus finally accepts what he needs to do brought tears to my eyes nonetheless.
All in all, you won’t find any hilarious gags in GHOST TOWN, and you’ll probably see the ending coming a mile away (although one event in the movie certainly did surprise me), but you might turn off the DVD player feeling a little happier and lighter after watching one sardonic Brit realize his human potential.
GHOST TOWN star rating (out of 5 stars): **1/2
So, do you like this idea of metaphysical movie reviews? I’m a film fanatic, so if you have any you’d like to recommend, please let me know! Blessings to all!