Ghost Town

Director    David Koepp
Starring    Ricky Gervais, Tea Leoni, Greg Kinnear, Kristin Wiig, Alan Ruck
Release    19 SEP (US) 24 OCT (UK)    Certificate 12A
3 stars


30th October 2008

After a couple of sitcoms (I forget the names now but I remember them being pretty successful), some weird kids' books, numerous podcasts, a bit of stand-up comedy and a few small parts in films, it was inevitable that that funny fat bloke from Reading would get his own leading role. Ricky Gervais claims that Ghost Town was the best script he'd read in five years. Though it's certainly no disaster, we can only assume either he hadn't been reading that many scripts, or he wasn't exactly being sent A material.

Gervais plays Dr. Bertram Pincus, a British dentist in New York who's fine when filling in teeth but has a cavity in his heart when it comes to people. He just doesn't like them, and to make sure it stays that way, he acts like a total bastard. He'll steal a woman's cab and leave her in the rain; he'll ignore charity workers; he'll make no effort to be liked by anyone. What an arse! But after technically dying for seven minutes during a routine operation, Bertram begins to see dead people and not in that creepy Sixth Sense way - these pesky ghosts all want favours. Recently deceased spirit Frank (Kinnear) promises he'll banish Pincus' wispy chums if he lends his his widow Gwen (Leoni) a hand.

It's surprising that this is Gervais' first movie lead, considering he's a household name over here and in the States. It's been a few years since he left Slough and Wernham-Hogg behind and clearly the experience he picked up in television has paid off. Ghost Town is his film and his unique brand of exasperated charm will surely be the main reason why bums will be on seats. Seeing Gervais out of his comfort zone in a romantic environment (eek!) does feel queasy, but luckily he doesn't stray too far from his tried-and-tested comedic techniques, love them or loathe them.

Greg Kinnear, as the adulterous, tuxedo-wearing, Blackberry-loving ghost is entirely satisfactory ('Entirely Satisfactory' is surely a potential title for Kinnear's autobiography) in the main supporting role and shares good chemistry with Gervais; the pair make quite the double act. Tea Leoni, playing Kinnear's widow and the object of Pincus' affections, is equally charming: in fact, it's a shame she and Kinnear don't share any scenes.

The unsung member of the cast however is the setting. Director David Koepp makes New York look stunningly beautiful with his long establishing shots over Central Park and Downtown Manhattan. The film is a love letter to NYC. Gervais' rant over the state of the British film industry may or may not ring true, but this film in particular just wouldn't be the same set in a rain-sodden London.

Ghost Town is a simple enough film that can be forgiven for an all-too-familiar story, thanks largely to its star and his shtick. With a good mix of genteel humour and a few surprisingly emotional scenes towards the end, Ghost Town gives America a proper taste of one of the UK's finest comedic exports. If anything, it gets us in the mood for Gervais' Hollywood directorial debut, This Side of The Truth; considering the script was written by Ricky himself, we'd hope he'd consider it even better than this one.

More:  Comedy  Death  Romance  Fantasy
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