Written by David Koepp & John Kamps
Directed by David Koepp
Running Time: 1:42
for some strong language,
sexual humor and drug references.
Ghost Town was a standard romantic comedy that happened to have Ricky Gervais in the lead, instead of being a breakout Ricky Gervais comedy.
Bertram Pincus is, along with having a very unfortunate name, a sad sack dentist who would prefer if everyone just stayed out of his way. While in for a medical procedure he dies for seven minutes and when he awakes he has the ability to see and speak to dead people. Considering he lives in New York, this more than doubles the amount of people he now has to deal with on a daily basis. One dead person in particular, Frank, is pushier than the rest. They all want something from Bertram, but Frank needs Bertram to keep Frank's wife Gwen from getting remarried. Bertram initially says no until he meets and falls for Gwen himself. But can a dumpy non-humorous dentist win over the beautiful woman? And will Frank and the rest of the dead brigade leave him alone?
I am a huge Ricky Gervais fan. I have all of his podcasts, I've seen him in concert, I loved Extras and to this day I still believe The Office is the greatest TV show of all time. Gervais in my mind is a comedy genius. Which is why it's so sad to see him in a movie not written by him. At first, when I saw the movie was written by David Koepp, I thought maybe it has a shot of being funny. Koepp is certainly a well-known screenwriter. But then I looked over his bio and realized that while a lot of the movies Koepp has written have done good business, none of them were considered to be particularly well written. There was always something else about the movie that made it good, whether it be a superhero (Spider-Man) or a strong star (Panic Room) or just an out-of-this-world concept (Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). That's not to say Koepp doesn't deserve some credit for his screenplays, but for the most part he hasn't written anything that stands out. And Ghost Town sadly falls into that category.
Imagine a romantic comedy where a sad sack falls for a girl and the only way he can win her over is if he has some help. That's what this movie breaks down to. Téa Leoni as the hot girl, check. Greg Kinnear as the friend behind the scenes, check. Romantic lead, Ricky Gervais? Does anyone see Gervais as a romantic lead? Sure he's got a lot of charm and he can be funny as anyone out there, but for him to be the object of some woman's desire in a very straightforward romantic comedy just didn't work for me. The movie didn't allow Gervais to do what he does best, and that's make people laugh.
There were moments where he broke out and had a few laughs. All the scenes at the hospital in the beginning of the film, when he first checked in and after he goes back to find out what happened to him were funny. And when he goes to Gwen's apartment for dinner with her and her boyfriend, Gervais has this ability to insult someone but still make them feel like he's on their side. But otherwise Gervais didn't have the chance to own the movie. He was stuck in a position where he has to do certain things to push the movie along. There didn't feel like there was room for him to breathe and ad-lib scenes. Gervais is at his best when he pushes the envelope and in this case, the envelope was sealed and just waiting for his stamp. The rest of the cast help up their side of the equation. Téa Leoni was sweet as the love interest. Greg Kinnear was at his smarmy best, although I have to say, I never did quite figure out what he was trying to accomplish. The rest of the ghosts had their own small parts to play and while none of them were around for very long, at least they added some life to this picture (and yes, I did mean to say that!) But for the most part, Ghost Town was rather lifeless. Even if you watch it strictly as a throw away romantic comedy, there wasn't enough substance to make it worthwhile.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I was disappointed with Ghost Town. While I love Ricky Gervais, this was not the role for him. The movie was a simple romantic comedy that didn't allow its star to shine. Next time I think Gervais needs to write his own material.
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