Friday, September 19, 2008
Flickers #13: Ghost Town - Ricky Gervais Sees Dead People, and They Really Bug Him
Ghost Town, starring Ricky Gervais, from the British (original) version of "The Office," is one of the season's funniest movies.
Check out my review, as published in Las Vegas City Life, or see the full text of the review below.
(photo, left to right: Ricky Gervais, Tea Leoni, Greg Kinnear)
Ghost movies invariably fall into one of two categories: frightening -- like The Sixth Sense and a recent strain of Japanese horror films -- or sweet and heartwarming -- like Heaven Can Wait, Ghost and the umpteen adaptations of Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
Ghost Town, with Ricky Gervais (BBC's The Office) in his first lead performance on the big screen, comes off like an update of the Dickens story -- the living person grows a conscience with the help of the dead, and does good deeds, to boot -- with far more tart and far less sentimentality. But the film, the comedy debut from thriller-horror director David Koepp (Secret Window, Stir of Echoes) is more fresh than all that, and often riotously funny. Credit Gervais's expert comic timing and perfect reading of vinegary lines, Tea Leoni's winning work as his straight woman, and terrific supporting performances.
Gervais is Bertram Pincus, a Manhattan dentist with an antisocial streak as big as the mouths of some of his most talkative patients. He's perfectly content to do his work with as little human connection as possible, ignoring his friendly young officemate (Aasif Mandvi) and happily being rude to neighbors at his upscale apartment building. During his colonoscopy, an operation helmed by an overly chatty doctor (Kristen Wiig, chewing scenery), Bertram experiences heart failure and a rebirth. Post-operation, he's gained the ability to see dead people, who are all too happy to get the attention. They begin harassing him with requests to take care of unfinished business.
Most annoying and persistent of all the ghosts is Frank (Greg Kinnear), a philandering businessman who wants help separating his widow (Leoni) from a new boyfriend (Billy Campbell). It's easy to predict what happens next. Still, the getting there is more than a little amusing, particularly when the character at the center of the action has a tongue as forked as Bertram's.