Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ghost Town

“Ghost Town” is the new romantic comedy starring Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, and Tea Leoni about a man who can speak to the dead. Don’t let the horrendously uncreative, and somewhat misleading, title fool you; this is a really funny movie. There’s nothing here that you really have not seen before, but it’s done so well that even having Tea Leoni in it does not ruin things.

“Ghost Town” casts Ricky Gervais as David Brent Andy Millman Bertram Pincus, a dentist who on the surface seems exactly like Gervais’ other famous roles in “The Office” and “Extras” with one big difference, instead off wanting fame or recognition, Bertram just wants to be left alone. If it sounds like I am criticizing the fact that Gervais plays the same character over and over, I’m really not. Some actors are just really well suited to one type of role, and Gervais is one of those actors; he has playing a completely socially inept prick down to an art, and I wouldn’t want him any other way.

Pincus is being relatively successful in his attempts to avoid human contact until, during a routine medical procedure, he dies. He doesn’t stay dead, but when he is released from the hospital he starts being able to see ghosts, and in a city like New York ghosts are everywhere. Once ghosts start to realize that Pincus can see them, they flock to him for help in tying up the loose ends of their life.

One ghost is particularly insistent on Pincus helping him, Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear) wants Bertram to break up his widow, Gwen (Tea Leoni), and her new love. At first Pincus just wants Frank to go away, but then he starts to fall for Gwen and decides to help break them up by making her fall from him using personal information fed to him by Frank.

Acting is not a big issue in this movie. Just as Gervais plays his standard character, Kinnear plays Frank as the same character he’s been playing since his “Talk Soup” days, but just as I would not expect (or necessarily even want) to see Gervais play a different character type, this is what Kinnear is good at. Even Leone manages to pull off a few convincing scenes as she completely geeks out over a mummy in front of Pincus at the museum where she is preparing an exhibit.

This movie far exceeds the sum of its parts. While it follows a standard romantic comedy formula, and is mostly predictable, the interaction between Gervais and those around is quick, funny, and comes across as fairly natural. If you enjoyed the style of cringe-humour in “The Office”, then this movie will have you howling with laughter.

You should also be on the look out for small appearances by Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show, Jericho) as the dentist who shares an office with Pincus, Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live, The Joe Schmo Show) as Pincus’ doctor, and Alan Ruck (Spin City, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) as one of the ghosts seeking help. They all add a little something special to the experience that is this movie.

The only real sore spot to the film is that it feels like some things are cut. Some prominently featured ghosts are never shown to get any sort of resolution, Pincus’ back story is handled as almost a throw-away line, and some of the more emotional scenes feel somewhat out of place and forced in such an otherwise funny film.

There is also a point towards the end where it seems like the ending may not be the one you expect going in. I do not wish to spoil it for anyone, but it would have been interesting, if maybe a little disappointing over all, to see how that could have played out. Maybe there will be an alternate ending on the DVD.

This is a great date movie. It’s very funny, touching at points, and a little gross; all the things a good date movie should be. If you enjoy Gervais’ brand of humour then you will not leave the theater disappointed. I highly recommend seeing these dead people.

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