Review: Ghost Town (2008)

Ghost Town

Directed by: David Koepp
: Greg Kinner, Ricky Gervais, Téa Leoni

Dr. Bertram Pincus, D.D.S. is what people would classify by most standards as a hermit, seeing as how he hates the company of others and prefers to be left alone whenever possible. However, after undergoing a supposedly simple surgical procedure, Dr. Pincus is pronounced dead for several minutes as the result of an amateur surgeon’s costly mistake. Shortly after realizing what has happened to him, Dr. Pincus suddenly becomes aware of the unpleasant side effects said experience has graced him with: the ability to see and hear dead people. With this in mind, it’s in no time at all that the doctor’s new company is approaching him with requests to help them take care of all the unfinished business they’d left behind prior to their untimely deaths. When loudmouth Frank enters the picture, Dr. Pincus must help him keep his wife, Gwen, from making the wrong decision, but at what cost to himself?

I absolutely love Ricky Gervais, so it comes as no surprise that I found myself very pleased with this film from the get-go. Koepp and collaborator John Kamps’ mildly unoriginal, yet truly hilarious script seem to compliment Gervais’ comedic talents to the fullest, allowing me to overcome points in the narrative that came off a little pat in favor of giving the film an appropriate ending. Despite the unappealing nature of the sappy moments in question, Koepp’s direction aids in striking an appropriate balance between comedy and run-of-the-mill melodrama with relative ease, all while showing a different side of Gervais and his character Dr. Pincus I never thought I’d see.

The film’s narrative also provides for a gradual sense of development within the rest of the characters, resulting in some pretty solid pacing amidst some repetitive structural elements, i.e. Gervais interacting hilariously with the undead as inconspicuously as possible. Additionally, it’s hard to deny Ghost Town‘s general appeal in being a refreshing entry into a genre that’s become plagued with stereotypes and gross-out gags, even if the film’s more romantic moments come off as a bit too sappy and generally unrealistic.

Gervais effectively steals the show as far as the efforts of the cast go, but Kinnear and Leoni manage to hold their own just fine, showcasing palpable chemistry between themselves and the central character. As always, Kristen Wiig’s one of many small roles is quite hilarious, transforming the somewhat serious circumstances surrounding Dr. Pincus’ dilemma into something negligible and lighthearted. In fact, it’s easy to say that a majority of Ghost Town‘s appeal lies within these performances, of which make the film’s unappealing elements forgettable by the time the end credits start rolling.

Ghost Town in turn ends up being a mostly successful combination of several formulaic cinematic elements: comedy, romance, and even the supernatural, with David Koepp proving to us that his writing skills and directorial prowess aren’t limited to cheap thrillers that generally don’t appeal to a wider audience. Instead, he’s provided us with a clever script that’s very suiting of Gervais’ renowned British wit, and shown us that there’s still a little bit of originality to be found within the romantic comedy genre, even if some aspects of the narrative prove to be a tad offputting. All in all, Ghost Town is very much worth your time if you’re looking for likable characters and a good laugh.

Rating: 7/10


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