Ghost Town

Ghost Town


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Ever since the phenomenal success of The Office, Ricky Gervais’ star has been on the rise. Seamlessly conqueringly medium after medium (no need to mention the failed pop career as a Bowie-a-like), Gervais cemented his TV status with Extras, conquered the paperback world with popular kids' book Flanimals, strolled through the comedy circuit with sold-out tours and strained i-Tunes downloading capacities with record-breaking podcasts. After five years of turning down roles in major movies and bit-parting in the likes of Night At The Museum and Stardust, the funnyman finally found a script that he loved.

Here he plays unfriendly dentist Bertram Pincus. After dying for seven minutes during a routine colonoscopy, he awakens to find that he can see and hear all the ghosts of New York. Soon driven crazy with requests to help with their unfinished business, he is approached by recently-deceased Frank (Greg Kinnear) who offers to keep the rest away if Pincus will stop his widow, Gwen (Tea Leoni) from marrying a new fiancé (Bill Campbell). However, when the upcoming marriage does fall though, Pincus realises he has feelings for Gwen and needs Frank’s help to do something about it.

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While uniting with big-hitting writer-come-director David Koepp (who wrote and directed) for a rom-com might appear like a blatant vehicle for Gervais to crack Hollywood, Ghost Town is actually pretty good. Better than the majority of conveyor-belt romantic comedies being churned out and much funnier than the typical Will Ferrell/Adam Sandler shout-fests, it is solid Friday night date material and will make for a solid DVD choice. Though it has been getting generally unfavourable reviews and sometimes slips into crude gag territory, Ghost Town succeeds largely for two reasons…

The first of these, is Gervais. While I am probably (definitely) biased as a massive fan of all his work, he turns in another impressive performance and never looks like a small-screen actor trying to make the transition to the big screen. Though I initially feared his unique comic style would get lost in material not written by himself or close-collaborating buddy Stephen Merchant, he wisely worked with Koepp to make the script ‘more him’ and ad-libbed whenever appropriate. More Andy Millman than David Brent, Pincus is the ‘straight’ man surrounded by those who say weird things and fits well as Gervais, like De Niro, works best when playing a version of himself. That’s right, I’m comparing the Brentmeister general to Bobby.

Second of all, is David Koepp’s script. Although it is clichéd and the outcome is never really in doubt to anyone who has seen at least one romantic movie, Ghost Town has a few clever moments and offers some nice material about closing down after suffering from a broken heart. While Koepp is known for writing flicks that make dosh-a-plenty (three of which are in the all-time top 25 highest-grossing movies) his latest is more moving than you would imagine and includes a few scenes that might have even the male audience members welling up. And when I say male audience members, I mean myself.

When all is said and done, Ghost Town is a fine start to Ricky Gervais’ silver screen career. Though he has stated that he always thought his first major lead would be in a feature crafted by him and Merchant, Gervais shows he can make mainstream material work for him and will doubtless go on to bigger and better things. While this is one probably best suited to fans of Ricky, those looking for a good laugh won’t find it’s like pulling teeth.

Reviewed on: 28 Oct 2008
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After a brush with mortality a dentist finds himself haunted by ghosts desperate for him to help them with unfinished business.
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Read more Ghost Town reviews:

Jennifer McGillan ****

Director: David Koepp

Writer: David Koepp, John Kamps

Starring: Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, Tea Leoni, Bill Campbell, Aasif Mandvi

Year: 2008

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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