Lowdown: A dentist able to see ghosts falls for a ghost’s ex wife.
Ricky Gervais is a guy I admire, not only because of his frequent use of his status (while potentially endangering it) for the causes atheism and rationalism but mainly because of the brilliance of his act in The Office and then Extras. Thing is, to the best of my knowledge Gervais is yet to make an impact on the big screen; he did have a nice cameo in Stardust but that was just a cameo, whereas on the other hand he’s had an awful part in Night at the Museum. Ghost Town represented his first proper foray into cinematic stardom, and I was therefore curious to witness the result.
Ghost Town is a comedy that puts Gervais right at home, doing the type of comedy and characters he likes best (albeit in a much more politically correct manner designed to appeal to wider audiences and, no doubt, raise better revenues). Gervais is an ultra selfish Brit living in New York and working as a dentist, with everything about him being to do with keeping away from the world around him. And so it is that when he goes to a routine hospital check-up he asks for unnecessary total sedation.
When he wakes up he realizes something weird: he is able to see and converse with ghosts. It turns out that while sedated, he was technically dead for a while; seeing ghosts is a side effect of being partially dead. These ghosts are all around us, representing dead people who left behind earthly matters when they died and must sort these out prior to vanishing. The ghosts, finally able to find someone who can relate to them, chase Gervais up in the hope he’d help them to fulfill their earthly duties; only that the Gervais character, being as selfish as it is, couldn’t care less about them. Dents do start appearing when the ghost of a rather sleazy guy (Greg Kinnear) looking to make amends with his living wife (Téa Leoni) makes enough of an impact on Gervais that he falls in love with Leoni.
This sets the wheels in motion for a classic love triangle romantic comedy (in which one of the triangle’s pieces is a ghost). It’s funny, even if it’s not too original; it’s often touching, but then in a rather patronizing and predictable manner; and it tries to say a thing or two about people’s approach to life and the need to be open to others. Indeed, Ghost Town is a rather simple affair: instead of relying on special effects, the way you’d expect a modern day ghost story to do, it relies on the power of its performances.
All three leads are good, all three are good comedians, and I quite like Kinnear and Leoni; but it’s Gervais and his talent that pick the film up from the mundane to the nice, and occasionally even further than that.
Now, if only a someone could arrange a role for Gervais that is not so politically correct.
Best scene: I really liked the hospital scenes featuring the hospital’s lawyer, especially his explanation on how Gervais had relinquished all legal rights concerning his medical treatment to the hospital. It fits the image I have of the law profession and it fits the way I see many lawyers selling their soul to their profession of choice. It’s also damn funny.
Technical assessment: The picture on this Blu-ray is what passes as standard for Blu-rays nowadays, which means it’s quite good but also means it could have been much better. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is rather too subdued for my liking.
Overall: A fairly regular romantic comedy made better through Gervais’ talents. 3.5 out of 5 stars.