Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ghost Town (2008)

I would pretty much watch Ricky Gervais in anything. The creator and star of the British sitcom “The Office” and HBO’s “Extras” is an absolute master of the comedy of the awkward. If Gervais ever did go on “Celebrity Big Brother,” as his character did in “Extras,” I would even watch that. I say all this to explain that I came into “Ghost Town” with some pretty high expectations. That may explain why, even though it was a pretty good movie, I’m a bit let down by it.

Ricky Gervais plays a misanthropic dentist who lives a small, depressed life in New York. He can’t even muster up the courtesy to make friendly small talk with his practice partner, let alone his patients. He is completely oblivious to the people around him. Things start to change when he dies briefly during a routine colonoscopy. He wakes up with the ability to see and talk to ghosts, who seem to be everywhere in the city. The ghosts are used to being unable to communicate with the living or directly influence the living world. Once they discover that the dentist can see them, the spirits mob him with various requests. Greg Kinnear is the most persistent of the ghosts, and he convinces the dentist to keep Kinnear’s widow (Tea Leoni) from re-marrying. You can pretty much figure out the rest from there. The dentist discovers love, learns to connect with people, and “the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.”

“Ghost Town” is like a funnier “As Good As It Gets,” with a lighter tone, tighter structure, but fewer nuances. Everybody does their job passably well. Greg Kinnear is charming and wry, Tea Leoni is sexy and adorable, and Ricky Gervais really is quite funny. My main disappointment with “Ghost Town” is that I didn’t expect Ricky Gervais to be in something so predictable and sentimental. Looked at on its merits, “Ghost Town” isn’t bad, but it is a very typical romantic comedy. It was pretty entertaining, but I can’t really imagine making an effort to watch it again.

2.5 out of 5

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