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Overall Rating

Awesome: 5.71%
Worth A Look: 25.71%
Pretty Bad: 20%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Ghost Town
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by Lybarger

"No, those glum-looking New Yorkers aren’t laid-off investment bankers."
4 stars

British comic Ricky Gervais can play assholes the way Yo-Yo Ma can play the cello.

The star of “The Office” and “Extras” has a rare gift for making delusionally obnoxious characters engrossing and often side-splittingly funny. You pray that you never have to deal with his characters in real life, but can’t take your eyes off the screen as Gervais irritates another unsuspecting victim.

Writer-director David Koepp’s “Ghost Town” owes a huge debt to “Groundhog Day,” “Ghost” and “The Sixth Sense,” but Gervais’ inspired central performance makes the clichés seem almost invisible, like the ghosts.

And to be fair, Koepp and co-writer John Kamps write enough snappy banter to make viewers forget how worn out the template they’re following is. Who knew that anesthesiologists had a “three strikers and you’re out” rule with patient deaths?

Unlike the longwinded “Boss-from-Hell” that he plays in “The Office,” Gervais’ latest character, Dr. Bertram Pincus, is often quiet and withdrawn.

For the rest of the world, this is a blessing.

When Pincus does speak to others, it’s usually in a manner that’s both evasive and witheringly misanthropic. He’s become one of Manhattan’s most successful dentists despite a chair-side manner that borders on sadistic.

Considering the contempt he holds the millions of living New Yorkers he has to deal with every day, Pincus’ frustration increases exponential when an accident during surgery causes him to see dead residents of the city as well as the living.

One persistent phantom named Frank Herlihy (an appropriately suave Greg Kinnear) tells Pincus his worries will go away if the dentist can prevent Frank’s widow Gwen (Téa Leoni) from remarrying.

Having been an unfaithful husband in life, Frank wishes to spare Gwen her previous fate. While Pincus is an unlikely heartbreaker, he gradually takes a liking to her and agrees to team up with Frank against her new suitor, Richard (Billy Campbell).

In the process, Pincus slowly sheds some of his aloofness and resentment. It’s a testament to Gervais’ talent that he can make viewers care if Pincus’ newfound heart can be broken. Without sacrificing Pincus’ prickly exterior, Gervais and Koepp manage to make his frequently appalling behavior both amusing and even excusable.

Koepp, who’s better known for helming grim dramas like “The Trigger Effect” and “The Secret Window,” also makes some intriguingly off-center choices. It’s refreshing to see a romantic comedy where the two leads are over-40 and look their ages. Obviously neither Gervais nor Leoni is remotely ugly, but it’s somewhat easier to root for lovers who look more like regular folks than the inhabitants of a catalog.

Leoni’s quirky manner is a nice complement to Gervais. She seems just odd enough to fall for an eccentric like Pincus, while still seeming worthy of a more emotionally-developed boyfriend.

I’ll take these two any day over the dully Stepfordian couples I had to endure in “Sex and the City: The Movie.” It seems odd that the movie with the ghosts instead of the designer labels is more realistic and more rewarding.

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originally posted: 09/19/08 14:34:47
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/17/11 Annie G Better than I expected, a good mildly funny, mildly romantic film. 3 stars
9/10/09 mr.mike I liked the transition from comedy to drama. 4 stars
9/09/09 Mac Very enjoyable. Funny and touching. 5 stars
7/31/09 MP Bartley Some chuckles, some touching moments, but fairly pedestrian overall. A decent time killer. 3 stars
6/20/09 daveyt not exactly genre busting, but who cares?! I enjoyed it and that's the main thing! 4 stars
1/20/09 gc Thought this one would have been funnier, but not bad, good cast too 3 stars
11/20/08 Colleen H Ricky Gervais is a genius! I loved this movie. 5 stars
10/22/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 3 stars
9/29/08 George Barksdale I liked it thought it was funny 4 stars
9/24/08 Suzz It added new luster to the word dull. I dozed off for 10 minutes. 2 stars
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  19-Sep-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 28-Dec-2008


  DVD: 28-Dec-2008

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  David Koepp

Written by
  David Koepp
  John Kamps

  Ricky Gervais
  Greg Kinnear
  Kristen Wiig
  Téa Leoni
  Billy Campbell

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