For a film that’s meant to entertain, supply some laughs and tug at your heart strings (with the orchestra on cue), “Ghost Town,” a lighthearted comedy starring Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear and TÃ©a Leoni, about an easily annoyed, misanthropic and grumpy dentist who gains the ability to communicate with ghosts after a colonoscopy gone wrong, does not disappoint.
Directed by David Koepp (screenwriter for the latest Indiana Jones installation, “Mission: Impossible” and “Death Becomes Her”), Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) is an English Expat dentist with a practice in New York City, which is a problem most days since Pincus goes out of his way to avoid interactions with people. When he must undergo a routine colonscopy, Pincus, an uptight, take-no-chances kinda guy, unnecessarily requests anesthesia, much to the dismay of his doctor (Kristin Wiig). After leaving the hospital, he begins to experience hallucinations of people following him on the streets and subsequently returns to the hospital to alert the doctor. The only problem is that hallucinations are in fact real. Well, kinda.
After dying in the operating room for “about” seven minutes and then coming back to life, Pincus is bestowed with a unique ability to communicate with the dead residents of NY, who are just as astonished about this revelation as he is. For his dead followers, this is a dream come true. For him, this becomes another annoyance in life, err, death.
What’s worse is that the dedicated followers of Pincus all want something from him, particularly Frank (Greg Kinnear), who tries to use the begruntled dentist to break up the impending marriage between his widow Gwen (TÃ©a Leoni), and Egyptologist and her new boyfriend, Richard, a human-rights lawyer. After finally agreeing to help Frank on the condition he gets rid of the other ghouls who still have unfinished business on Earth, Pincus ends up falling for Gwen, giving birth to an enjoyable romantic comedy.
While the film’s concept and idea is nothing new and is more or less of a “What Women Want” meets “A Christmas Carol” meets “Over Her Dead Body” or “Just Like Heaven” or [insert comedy about talking with the dead here], it does have laugh out loud moments and one liners, most, oh who am I kidding, all of which are delivered by Gervais. While Pincus fails at extracting information from Richard about Gwen, he turns to Dr. Prashar (Aasid Mandvi), the dentist practicing in the same office to do it for him, assuming he knows a thing or two about interrogation because of his ethnicity. In another scene, Pincus confronts Gwen’s horse-like Great Dane. Gwen informs him that she rescued him from the pound before he was put to sleep. “Lost their nerve, did they?” Pincus quips back, while struggling to keep his very sensitive gag reflex at bay due to the pungent order of the enormous dog.
Most of the downfall of the film rests on the fact that despite a fresh face, it is more or less predictable. The cuing in of the orchestra during emotional moments, the realization by Pincus that being sociable and kind and helping others is a great thing, the suave, albeit guru, Frank, aiding the socially awkward and awkward looking not so smooth operator, the use of the dentist-suicide statistic. Then again, most audiences see details such as these as inconsequential. Though others might notice the tried and true plot lines, the thrill of Ricky Gervais and the unlikelyhood of a moody recluse ever developing a relationship with an attractive archaeologist just might make it original enough to work.
Ghost Town is rated PG-13, with a running time of 1 hour 43 minutes.
Photos: Sarah Shatz/Dreamworks LLC