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Ghost Town

Appropriately funny, surprisingly sweet, Ghost Town just might give Brit funnyman Ricky Gervais a career in the American romantic comedy milieu--if he wants it, that is.


Don't get me wrong--Gervais' acerbic, socially reclusive dentist Bertram Pincus isn't really the catch of the century. On the contrary. He'd rather drink battery acid then have to speak to anyone directly, including his attractive new neighbor Gwen (Tea Leoni). But Bertram gets a severe attitude adjustment when he accidentally dies--for seven minutes--during a routine colonoscopy. When he comes back from the dead, so to speak, he can suddenly SEE the dead--ghosts with unfinished business who follow Bertram around and try to get him to help them. This includes Frank (Greg Kinnear), who wants Bertram to break up the impending marriage of his widow, the very same lovely Gwen. At first, Bertram tries to very hard to ignore the request--until he gets a good look at Gwen and decides it might be worth it after all. Now Bertram just has to convince her he isn't really the total twit he seems to be. Good luck with that.


When Gervais won the Golden Globe in 2001for his achingly funny BBC series The Office, most of us Yanks were like, "Who is that?" Then he came up and gave one of the more hilarious acceptance speeches--and well, a star was born. He certainly hasn't disappointed since, turning in another hit comedy show Extras for HBO--and now, movies. Whether he'd admit it or not, Gervais has leading man qualities in that very offbeat British way, master of the miscommunication and half-finished sentences. And playing off veteran comic actors such as Kinnear and Leoni in Ghost Town only make Gervais look even better. Leoni is especially fetching in her breezy role as Gwen, an Egyptologist who could be a total nerd if not for her charm and sense of humor. The chemistry with Gervais is odd at best, but they make it work AND seem believable. There are a few scenes she does with Gervais where you just know it took a lot of takes because she couldn't quit laughing. I know I certainly wouldn't have been able to.


Ghost Town's head honcho David Koepp is definitely known more for his writing than directing, having penned such scripts as Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, War of the Worlds and Spider-Man, thus the reason Ghost Town shines as it does. The premise isn't anything groundbreaking, but the dialogue is spot-on. Co-writing with John Kamps, Koepp manages to mix both screwball comedy with poignancy without it seeming too silly or too syrupy, while the plot moves along at a nice pace. And Ghost Town has one of those feel-good endings (a rom-com must have) you don't really expect to feel as good about as you do. Koepp's other directorial efforts included Secret Window and Stir of Echoes, but it seems romantic comedies are now and should always be his forte.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 1/2 stars.