Ghost Town (2008)
What Ghosts Want
All work and no play makes Jack- a vital member of society - Bertram Pincus
Whether intentional or not "Ghost Town" comes across as if someone has combined "Ghost" with "What Women Want" to give us "What Ghosts Want" a story of a man who can see and speak to dead people and as such finds himself helping out one particular ghost who hassles him into helping his wife he left behind. It's actually not a bad idea if a little obvious when you get past the set up. But you have to get past that set up, a set up which relies on Ricky Gervais delivering a very dour character and it is hard work because to be honest Gervais's general style is something you either get and enjoy or don't. The good news is that get past the set up and into what feels quite a familiar story and it all comes together nicely to make for a surprisingly enjoyable movie.
Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais - Stardust) maybe a dentist but he is certainly not a people person in fact he goes out of his way to avoid people. But following a visit to hospital for a minor exploratory procedure something strange happens because in the theatre he died for a bit less than 7 minutes and now can see and communicate with ghosts. And these ghosts want his help so that they can movie on to the other side especially Frank (Greg Kinnear - Baby Mama) who harasses him till he agrees to help. And what Pincus has to do is cause Frank's widow Gwen (Téa Leoni - Jurassic Park III) to split up from the new man in her life but in doing so he finds himself in the midst of a very confusing love triangle.
So as already mentioned the storyline to "Ghost Town" feels like someone has combined ideas from "Ghost" with "What Women Want" and so we have the character of Bertram Pincus who finds himself being plagued by ghosts that only he can hear and see. Basically think of Mel Gibson in "What Women Want" and how the voices in his head as he could hear women's thoughts and you sort of get what is going on here with Pincus and all the ghosts who hassle him. But then there is the "Ghost" aspect as you have the ghostly Frank who in particular hassles Pincus in a not too dissimilar way to how Patrick Swayze harassed Whoopi Goldberg. These two elements combine quite nicely to provide plenty of humour as Pincus struggles to tell who is alive and dead when walking down the street whilst also getting in his way as he desperately tries to lead a normal life.
But that is really just the set up as the storyline leads to Frank asking Pincus to stop his widowed wife from getting remarried. Now not only is this very unbelievable, strange thing to say about a movie about ghosts, but also very obvious. From the minute that Pincus stops to notice how attractive Frank's widow Gwen is you know it's going to end up all very obvious as it becomes quite a simple romantic comedy. In a way by becoming such an obvious romantic comedy is a waste of the potential that the set up delivered but it also sorts of work. And like so many modern movies there is also a less than subtle message thrown in as at the start Pincus is not a people person, in fact is a very self centred loner but has to learn to be more out going in order to help the ghosts who plague his life.
The thing is that when it comes to the comedy in "Ghost Town" it is a very mixed bag and I can see it being like marmite. Now there is the more mainstream funny with such scenes as Frank's actual death, a darkly funny scene which catches you by surprise but is so good. And this leads into a clever little detail that whenever someone walks through a ghost they sneeze for no apparent reason. But then you have the Ricky Gervais side of things as he plays the seriously dour Bertram Pincus and it is so dour and purposefully awkward that you are either going to enjoy it or not. To be honest it's a bit of a rollercoaster because to start with Gervais's dour comedy is a little too different, then it sort of grows on you but long before "Ghost Town" ends you become a little tired of his awkward humour.
Aside from Ricky Gervais there is the always lovely Téa Leoni who to be honest her talents are under used as Gwen but her smile and laugh perks up those moments of dour humour. And then there is Greg Kinnear who sparks so much life into the movie as Frank and does a wonderful job of delivering some brilliant dead pan humour as he harasses Pincus.
What this all boils down to is that "Ghost Town" is a clever movie which never fully comes off. There is something quite nice about the set up which crosses "Ghost" with "What Women Want" but ends up being slightly wasted by using it in a very obvious romantic comedy. And whilst there are some wonderful mainstream moments of humour the dour, awkward comedy of Ricky Gervais is either going to amuse you or annoy you and even when it does amuse their is a good chance it will end up annoying you by the end of the movie. To put it simply "Ghost Town" is more entertaining that I expected but still could have been a lot more entertaining.
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