Ghost Town – DVD Review
By Frankie Dees Dec 21, 2008, 12:03 GMT
In the romantic comedy "Ghost Town," Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais), is a man whose people skills leave much to be desired. When Pincus dies unexpectedly, but is miraculously revived after seven minutes, he wakes up to discover that he now has the annoying ability to see ghosts. Even worse, they all want something from him, particularly Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear) who pesters him into breaking up the impending marriage of ...more
Much better than the ho-hum previews would have you believe, any fan of British deadpan (dead…heh) comedian Ricky Gervais will feel right at home with this sharply written supernatural comedy that also includes solid supporting work from Greg Kinnear and Tea Leoni.
I was one of the many who caught the terribly cut-together previews and tv spots and was left shrugging his shoulders and perplexed why the hilarious Emmy-winning star of Brit's version of 'The Office' and 'Extras' was choosing this dull-looking story to make his American leading-man debut.
Looking like a warmed over 'Heart and Souls', I was pleasantly surprised to find this is more Cary Grant's 'Topper' with writing that played right into Gervais' strengths.
Blockbuster writer ('Spider-man', 'War of the Worlds' and 'Jurassic Park') and contained horror director ('Stir of Echoes' and 'Secret Window') David Koepp directs and co-wrote with John Kamps and finds a nice line between snappish humor, romantic comedy and even some effective somber nuance as we are, after all, dealing with dead people.
The film opens and we're following smooth-talking, slightly obnoxious Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear) walking on a busy Manhattan street. Looking up just in time to avoid a falling air conditioner, he jumps out into the street just long enough to recognize his good luck...before it runs out and he gets hit by a bus. Automatically rematerializing, he realizes at once that he's dead and he doesn't take it too well.
Meanwhile, we meet Bertram Pincus (Gervais), who chose a profession, dentist, mainly because it means he wouldn't have to talk to anyone. Unmarried and single, he's a slightly miserable guy and goes out of his way to avoid contact with everybody - he even tries to slip by the doorman without having to return a greeting.
Already irritable and private, a routine colonoscopy doesn't help much, particularly when he dies for seven minutes. Seeing more strange people than usual walking the streets of Manhattan, he realizes his small time as a corpse has opened his eyes to this new world of ghosts with unfinished business. When they realize he can help them, they start to follow him everywhere asking for assistance to their problems - think Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze in 'Ghost'.
One such ghost seems to be the most consistent, Frank, whose widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) is all set to marry another man. Frank strikes up a deal with Bertram. If Bertram can somehow break off the engagement of his widow, he promises that Bertram can live in peace without the constant invasion of privacy (How Frank would convince these hundreds of other ghosts to keep moving is anybody's guess...).
This being autumn in New York, love is in the air and Bertram, of course, falls for Gwen and their slowly building romance is as pleasant as the rest of the film. The first hour or so rides along on consistent laughs and a kind of easy grace of the screenplay. Light-weight, possibly, in it's aspirations, the three performers manage to elevate almost every scene to an almost Capra-esque effortless charm.
It eventually even manages more than a few scenes of genuine pathos with Frank thinking his infidelity went unnoticed and then discovering when observing a conversation with Pincus that it didn't. And Bertram ultimately succumbs to helping out the more pleading ghosts in scenes that might have been more eye-rolling in a lesser film but end up being quite effective here.
The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks quite good with the nice New York fall landscapes always being a dependable backdrop to great romantic-comedies.
Special Features start off with a feature-length audio commentary by director David Koepp and Ricky Gervais and it's as loose and funny as expected. Clearly comfortable with each other, this makes a nice low-key listen for fans. 'Making Ghost Town' is a twenty-minute behind-the-scenes with cast/crew interviews. 'Ghostly Effects' is a brief look at the subtle special effects and 'Some People Can Do It' is a fun gag reel.
One of the more unworthy box office failures of the past year, I imagine 'Ghost Town' will slowly find its audience at home. Ricky Gervais fans would particularly do well to seek this one out but it should also provide a good time for the whole family.