Rated PG-13; Directed by David Koepp; Starring Ricky Gervais, Téa Leoni, Greg Kinnear, Aasif Mandvi
Ghost Town is one of those movies that gives us a protagonist who learns heartfelt lessons about life and love. In a comedy these life lessons can get incredibly gooey. Sure, if done well, the movie has heart; if done poorly, it’s a manipulative mess. Luckily, Ghost Town is not a mess. Sure, it’s manipulative, but some of that heart shines through, causing a case of the sniffles near the end. Just like Scrooge, this tale has an obnoxious person learning those gooey lessons from some ghosts who show up to pester him.
Ricky Gervais plays Bertram Pincus, a dentist who finds people annoying. His joy in being a dentist is that he can shut people up by sticking cotton in their mouth. Soon after a visit to the hospital for a colonoscopy, Pincus starts seeing ghosts, including a well-dressed Greg Kinnear. It seems Kinnear’s character wants help in saving his widow (Téa Leoni) from the clutches of a supposed gold-digger. A silly plot with a semi-skilled execution, but there are some very funny moments.
Gervais (BBC’s “The Office” and “Extras”) excels at those uncomfortable moments when getting caught out in exaggerations or lies. He’s also great at the sarcastic rejoinder. The movie is at its best when it takes advantage of his skills. The romance between his character and Tea Leoni’s is rather far-fetched but they both make it work (a scene over a mummy seals the deal). Gervais is well matched by Greg Kinnear’s light touch as the finagling ghost.
Ghost Town is not a great movie, but it keeps things light. Though it does make some manipulative moves, it isn’t offensively gooey.