- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
here are some movies that you go into with certain expectations, only to be disappointed, and there are others that you underestimate only to find you really enjoy. David Koepp’s “Ghost Town” falls into the latter category. It’s not that the film looked bad per se, but that between its been-there-done-that premise and the wild card casting of British comic Ricky Gervais, it was shaping up to be yet another mediocre rom-com to help pass the lull of the early fall movie season. As it happens, the supernatural comedy might just be the biggest surprise of the year, thanks in part to a smart script from writers Koepp and James Kamps, and a laugh-out-loud performance from its unlikely star.
Gervais stars as Bertrum Pincus, an ill-tempered dentist with no social life and zero tolerance for speaking to other people. When he goes in for a routine colonoscopy and wakes up with the ability to see and hear ghosts, however, he discovers that during his procedure, he legally died for seven minutes. Now, the dead follow him around the city begging to help them complete their unfinished business, and at the front of the line is Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), a tuxedoed adulterer who is certain that the new fiancée of his wife Gwen (Téa Leoni) is only after her money. Determined to stop the marriage before it begins, Frank offers Bertrum a solution: help him break up the happy couple and he’ll make sure no ghost bothers him ever again. Bertram is instantly smitten with the beautiful Gwen, and though Frank is more than happy to coach him through the wooing process, there’s just one problem: Bertram lives in the same building as Gwen and, unbeknownst to him, he's been a jerk to her his whole life.
“Ghost Town” opens with one of the best hit-by-a-bus death scenes in recent memory and doesn’t let up until its feel-good final act comes to a close. Sure, the idea has been done countless times before (from classics like “Ghost” to duds like “Over Her Dead Body”), but Koepp wisely makes every performance count. In doing so, he shifts the attention away from the familiar plot and places the spotlight on his actors – namely Ricky Gervais, who delivers a star-making turn as the sardonic dentist. As any fan of “The Office” or “Extras” can attest, Gervais plays a jerk better than anyone, but it’s his comic timing, coupled with his ability to incorporate an underlying hint of kindness to his characters, that makes each one so memorable.
Only in a post-Apatow world could a guy like Gervais be cast as a leading man, but he pulls it off remarkably well. His eccentric brand of humor is perfect for the tone of the film, and he’s an absolute riot throughout – not only making the potentially second-rate movie watchable, but downright hilarious. Greg Kinnear and Téa Leoni are both great in their respective roles, and Kristen Wiig stops by for an extended cameo in one of the film’s funniest scenes, but this is Gervais’ movie through and through. Of course, that poses a bit of a problem, as your ability to enjoy the film completely hinges on how you feel about the British comic. Some think that Gervais is overrated and annoying, but if you’re like me, you think he’s one of the best comic talents around. He certainly proves it here, because when you're able to make as big of a difference as he does in "Ghost Town," there's little room for debate.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
There’s not a whole lot to the special features on the single-disc release of “Ghost Town,” but somehow, it’s just enough. The audio commentary with writer/director David Koepp and star Ricky Gervais is pretty enjoyable as long as you’re not looking for any major behind-the-scenes information, while “Making Ghost Town” is about as straightforward as a making-of featurette can get. Fans of Gervais will absolutely love “Some People Can Do It,” however, since it’s essentially a six-minute gag reel of the portly comedian (that one's for you Ricky) botching lines. The lack of any Blu-ray exclusives is a bit disappointing, but not totally unexpected.