“Ghost Town” Review

29 Sep

It isn’t just Ricky Gervais’ acting that makes “Ghost Town” hilarious.   It isn’t the witty and sarcastic script either.  It’s everything.  Nearly every moment of the movie is sheer comedic joy, which is surprising for a flick about seeing dead people.

One of the biggest surprises of “Ghost Town” is director and co-writer David Koepp.  He’s known for writing heart-pounding blockbusters like “Jurassic Park” and “Mission: Impossible,” so you would expect him to be out of his element with a romantic comedy like “Ghost Town.”  But that’s not the case.   Koepp makes the film exactly what a comedy should be: laugh out loud funny.  The script is rich with clever jokes and amusing banter that would make even Woody Allen jealous he didn’t write it.

© Copyright 2007 Paramount Pictures

Ricky Gervais (original “The Office” creator in Britain) is not so much of a surprise, but he’s a star.   The role of Dr. Bertram Pincus seems to have been made for his dry comedic style.   Bertram is a dentist who has no social skills and just wants to be left alone.  After he goes into the hospital for a colonoscopy, Bertram accidentally dies from the anesthesia for a few minutes.

When he comes out of the surgery, everything seems to be normal, except that now he can see ghosts.  The mob of ghosts pesters Bertram, begging him to help their loved ones and do their unfinished business.  Among the ghosts is jerky businessman Frank Herlihy, played by Greg Kinnear, another fantastic comedic actor.

Frank promises Bertram that if he can stop Frank’s widow, Gwen (Téa Leoni), from remarrying, the ghosts will leave Bertram alone forever.  It’s when Bertram starts falling for Gwen that the film has the potential to be as awful as “Over Her Dead Body,” another romantic “comedy” about a medium.  However, the intelligent humor and superior acting keeps “Ghost Town” from being a cheap chick flick.

“Ghost Town” is a first-rate comedy because blends just about every type of humor so there’s something funny for everyone. There’s slapstick, dry sarcasm (mostly from Gervais), irony, gross-out humor, race jokes, and even some dentist jokes that are funny in the way Gervais delivers them. A lot of the shoddy comedies that are made these days tend to focus on gross-out humor and slapstick, but it takes a gem like “Ghost Town” to use cheap comedic tricks and sharp wit in a way that works.

Every actor in this film is funny, even those with bit parts.  One of the best is Kirsten Wiig (of “Saturday Night Live”) as the airhead surgeon who cares more about her spray on tan smelling funky than Bertram’s colonoscopy.  There’s also a token naked guy as one of the ghosts who doesn’t even need lines to be funny.

The ending is a bit predictable and the last few lines are horribly boring.  It seemed like Koepp and co-writer John Kamps were so desperate to finish the screenplay that they let themselves get sucked into the romantic comedy cliché.  Ironically, things start going downhill during a scene in Central Park in the fall, which looks like one of the famous scenes from “When Harry Met Sally.”  It’s after this scene that Bertram’s personality changes, and he loses the initial charm that made the movie so appealing.

The ending isn’t completely awful, though, and there are still some hilarious scenes that make the entire movie worth watching.   Overall, the film will have audiences giggling and the ending, while cheesily sentimental, has a tear-jerking factor.  “Ghost Town” is the perfect comedy to start off the fall season, but it probably won’t be winning an Oscar.  Sorry, Steve Carell.   We all know how much you wanted to steal another award from Gervais.

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