Movie Review: “Ghost Town” Worth Your Money – Plus, Tons of Laughs

September 30, 2008  

By Matt Carter
mscarter@smu.edu

“Ghost Town”
Grade: A-

The best way for me to describe “Ghost Town” is that it is what a romantic comedy should be. So many times we have seen the formula for these movies:

-Boy meets girl

-Boy falls for girl

-Boy and girl get together

-Something causes boy and girl great anguish, and it looks like all hope is lost

-Boy and girl get back together and kiss as the camera pans out

Thankfully, this project breaks just about every one of these traditions. It has a little bit of “A Christmas Carol” in it (minus the part about Christmas, of course), but as a final product, it is one of the most original and entertaining romantic comedies in years.

Ricky Gervais (TV’s “Extras”) stars as Bertram Pincus, an incredibly irritable man working as a dentist in New York City. Unlike most doctors, he didn’t enter the medical field to help others—he wanted a profession where he could shove things in people’s mouths so they would be forced to shut up. One day, however, things change for Pincus when he goes into the hospital for a routine operation and something goes terribly wrong: he dies while on the operating table, and upon his resuscitation starts to see the dead walking around the city. One of them, a man in a tuxedo named Frank (Greg Kinnear) desperately seeks his help in hopes of allowing his widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) the best chance possible to move on with the rest of her life. In the process, Bertram’s amicable feelings for Gwen transform into something else.

In order for a film like “Ghost Town” to succeed, it needs a knockout performance from its leading man. The good news is that Ricky Gervais more than delivers. Gervais, known to most Americans from the British version of “The Office,” is absolutely hysterical as Pincus, a man we love to hate who eventually transforms into someone we can’t help but adore. He mixes in a great bit of his trademark sarcasm, but even more importantly, there’s enough emotionality to his work that we really feel for him during the film’s more depressing moments. This isn’t like a Jim Carrey flick where we’re waiting for the sappy portions to end—the sadder portion of the plot is good enough here to bring audience to tears. The supporting cast also makes the story move along wonderfully thanks to Leoni, Billy Campbell and Greg Kinnear, who really is spot-on as a dead guy with his own bizarre motivations for haunting the earth. The picture is directed with class by David Koepp, an exceptionally popular screenwriter taking one of his few turns in the director’s chair.

If there is any flaw to the film at all, it’s that the editing isn’t always spot-on and the music is occasionally repetitive. However, this isn’t a low-budget film and that is one of the reasons I love it. “Ghost Town” is a joy to watch, and while it may not be the most popular ticket at the local theater, I’m betting it to be one of the best.

“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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