Movie Review: “Ghost Town” Should Stay Dead

September 30, 2008  

By Christy Vutam
cvutam@smu.edu

“Ghost Town”
C+

There are several interesting nuances in “Ghost Town” that keep the movie afloat, but there aren’t enough of them to justify spending the going rate of a movie ticket price on it. In fact, there are enough stupid moments in the movie that almost made me give up on the movie completely, and only the talent of Ricky Gervais saved the movie from being a complete bust.

“Ghost Town” has a terrific premise: Bertram Pinus (Gervais), a most unpleasant man, sees ghosts after dying for a few minutes during an operation. Ghosts, it turns out, stay on earth because they have unfinished business to take care of. Ghosts all over New York start following Bertram around, asking him to help them get to their real designated afterlife.

Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear) is more persistent than the others, and he ropes Bertram into stopping his widow, Gwen (Téa Leoni), from remarrying a man he doesn’t think is right for her. This movie being a romantic comedy, Bertram suddenly and naturally decides that he needs to get in on this (probably) one last stab at love and companionship. Of course, he casts himself as the man to break up Gwen’s engagement.

My biggest problem with this romantic comedy is the romantic part. Bertram is such an unlikable man – he won’t hold elevators; he steals cabs from other people; and he’s a dentist to avoid human interaction (because most of the time, his patients can’t speak to him) – at the beginning of the film that I don’t buy how anyone who was the victim of his unpleasantness would fall for him over the course of the movie, which seems to only span a few days.

In fact, now that I’m working the movie out on paper, I’ve come to realize this movie follows the “women like men who treat them badly” methodology of men/women relationships. Gwen, a beautiful, smart, well-to-do woman, is only attracted to men who don’t treat her right or are wrong for her. Of course, she is!

Great, now I really don’t like “Ghost Town.” If only the film had stuck to its comedy parts…oh, wait. The humor in the film is dumb and unworthy of anyone’s time, especially not of an actor with as much comedic prestigious as Gervais. The Indian/torture “joke” was a torture in and of itself.

What co-writers John Kamps and David Koepp, who also directed the movie, should have concentrated on was the seeing ghost aspect. What they’ve seem to deem as throwaway jokes and as a means to an arc for Pincus should have been the main focus of the movie. Some of the film’s best moments come from the two’s enchanting ideas on ghosts and Bertram’s interactions with the apparitions.

I’d recommend “Ghost Town” as a future rental and to save your money on something better. The movie and all of its tricks (and aside from its misogynist tones) are worthy of at least a rental but nothing more expensive than that.

“Ghost Town” opened Sept. 19. Starring Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, and Téa Leoni. Directed by David Koepp. Runs 102 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some strong language, sexual humor and drug references.

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