Friday 30 January 2009

Movie Review: Ghost Town (2008)

A small, low key romantic comedy that borrows extensively from many other movies and achieves very little that is new. Ghost Town is only enjoyable in the sense that it is inoffensive, steers clear of cheap laughs, and at least aims for the slightly cerebral.

Ricky Gervais (from the original British version of The Office) is Bertram Pincus, a dour dentist who has all but given-up on any positive aspects of humanity, and is self-satisfied going through life alone and with an air of over-bearing pessimism.

After briefly dying on the operating table, Pincus wakes up with the ability to see and interact with ghosts who are all around us, hanging around the living due to various unresolved pre-death issues. The ghosts in Ghost Town are thankfully not scary or ugly, just normal looking and slightly pushy folks waiting for help. Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear, strangely the most likeable thing about the movie) is the pushiest among them, having been literally run over by a bus without resolving his marriage issues. He wants Pincus to sabotage the relationship between his widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) and her new hunky boyfriend.

What follows is a predictable relationship between Gwen and Pincus, which is as unbelievable as the quick transformation that Pincus subsequently zips through to become a caring human being. The emotional evolutions are abrupt and handled with a dramatic shortage of subtlety, thanks to the predictable script (David Koepp and John Kamps) and bland direction (Koepp again).

Gervais tries hard but his character is given precious little to work with, while Tea Leoni has to make us believe that she will fall for a rude dentist when her current boyfriend looks like most women's white knight. She also has to make us believe that she is a paleopathologist. None of it rings true.

A movie that passes the time, but not necessarily time well spent.

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