From director David Koepp, who is credited as the screenwriter for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", which we’ve forgiven him for, comes this little supernatural comedy that is so light and breezy and so harmlessly entertaining that one would almost have to be The Grinch not to like it at least just a little bit. And we say this even though this movie tricked us by masking its true sinister roots under a bit of science fiction, some British humor and the stately presence of Tea Leoni. What would that sinister reality be for this movie ‘Ghost Town’? Its a damn Romantic Comedy is what it is, and we’ve been hoodwinked into watching it and enjoying it, and we’re none too happy about it.
As our film opens, we are audience to Frank Herily (Greg Kinnear) who is explaining to his wife on his Blackberry why some real estate agent is asking her how she wants to decorate her new loft. Actually the loft was for Frank’s mistress, not that any of this will matter much since Frank will be dead like… now!
A few years have passed and we are introduced to our main character of interest Dr. Bertram Pincus D.D.S. Dr. Pincus (Ricky Gervais) is an interesting fellow in that he’s probably as anti-social as they come, has absolutely no decorum or tact, says whatever happens to fall out his mouth with nary a thought and has some serious backed up bowels. But then he is British. These backed up bowels become relevant because Dr. Pincus is about to have a little surgical procedure to open them up a bit, which as far as he knows goes just swell. As far as he knows.
What Dr. Pincus will find out is that he actually died during his little procedure for a whopping seven minutes. Though I’m no doctor, I’m thinking that seven minutes with no oxygen going to brain can’t be a good thing. Anyways, upon leaving the hospital things are immediately apparent to Dr. Pincus that something is terribly wrong. In short, he’s seeing dead people. Everywhere. And more importantly the dead people see
him and knows that he can see them. It’s like ‘The Sixth Sense’ only funny. And with no cute kid. The reason these dead people are still hanging around is that they have some unfinished business, just like ‘The Sixth Sense’ again only not taking itself quite as serious, and finally they have someone who they can talk to who can take care of their business for them. This would include, of course, Frank Herilhy who is convinced that his wife is about to marry a cheating lawyer and makes a deal with Dr. Pincus to keep the other throngs of dead at bay if he can hopefully stop this event from taking place.
Sure enough upon meeting Frank’s widow Gwen (Leoni), who just so happens to live in Bertram’s apartment building, he starts falling in love with her. This is where we were tricked because in true RomCom style, she hates the little bugger at first, finds some good in his abrasive ass, kind of falls for him because he is kind of funny and then feels as if she’s been betrayed somehow, which leads our hero to confront why he such an asshole in an effort to win the girl back.
With the exception of a few seemingly out of place F-bombs, ‘Ghost Town’ plays a lot in style and tone like one of those old zany black and white comedies from the 1930’s with its quick, witty rapid fire banter and the easy effortless charm that stars Gervais, Kinnear and Leoni exude on the screen. Kinnear even sports a tuxedo, 1930’s style throughout the film which I’m sure wasn’t a mere coincidence. But the film belongs to comedian Ricky Gervais who is one really funny dude. The script which Koepp co-wrote is a softball hand lobbed right into Gervais wheelhouse who swings and scores a touchdown. We call that a ‘mixed metaphor’ right there. The physical comedy works with his halting movements, not to mention the unique way his character speaks and communicates, or fails to communicate with those around him. I don’t know who else could’ve pulled this off except Ricky Gervais, who is uniformly funny in this movie, but this is what we have come expect from Gervais at this point in his career. Probably a bit more surprising is how Gervais is able to take his character from a boorish cad to a sympathetic hero, while keeping the character basically the same throughout the film and eventually have you rooting for him. All of the actors, from the leads to the characters who are in support added to the humor in this film which was steady throughout. Maybe not ‘bust-a-gut’ 'Blazing Saddles' funny, but it also lacked any dead spots or lulls that we see from similarly styled comedic films.
Sure the movie wasn’t perfect as some of the sweetness bordered on the Saccharine, and it was a Romantic Comedy at its core, and as such RomCom’s do follow a fairly unbreakable formula which did make the film rather predictable. But hell, it’s a romantic comedy and if it wasn’t painfully predictable then it wouldn’t be a romantic comedy.
So if you like your movies sweet, funny and predictable, which I generally don’t, then imagine my surprise at the fun I had watching Ricky and them do what they did in ‘Ghost Town.