Ghost Town

November 4 2008 at 10:24 pm (Cinema reviews)

ghost-town-poster-2With an unassuming and forgettable title, Ghost Town is a film that could quite easily pass you by. The fact that the ‘town’ of the title is one of the biggest cities in the world just goes to show how humble the film is. It seems to thrive on understatement.


Ricky Gervais plays misanthropist dentist Bertram Pincus (the joke being that a dentist in America, the land of the gleaming smile, has teeth that are a bit funny looking). After he dies on the operating table for seven minutes (the film is very specific about this length of time for some reason) during a routine surgical procedure, he finds that he is able to see the dead. Before he knows it, half of the ghosts in New York want him to sort out their unfinished business for them so that they can move on to the next life. But none of them are more persistent than Frank Herlihy (the ever-brilliant Greg Kinnear) who wants Pincus to stop his widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) from marrying her new boyfriend.


Ricky Gervais was sent hundreds of scripts and, although it was probably not the best script, he says this was the best for him. It’s hard to believe that none of his major roles before this have been extreme cynics – David Brent was a blissfully unaware loser while Extras’ Andy Millman was a money grabbing wannabe – because he’s so good at it. And hats off to Gervais for not choosing a massive ego-boosting, awards-grabbing movie to kick-start his leading man career. Instead, he’s wisely easing himself in, although he may be in danger of being typecast.


Although New York must be teeming with frustrated ghosts, only a handful are on Pincus’ case, but that just adds to the low-key appeal of the film. It’s a fairly middle-of-the-road romantic fantasy comedy, playing out like a Richard Curtis remake of Ghost. Prolific and hugely successful screenwriter David Koepp probably bashed this out in a weekend, but it plods along nicely. It’s moderately funny, occasionally hilarious and good natured but ultimately quite forgettable.


Still, Mark Kermode, a critic who is notoriously hard to please, laughed all the way through it and said it’s a better film than Quantum of Solace – high praise indeed. He’s got a point, though.


Rating: 3/5


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