Movie Review: Ghost Town
it's funny because it's true! No, wait. it's neither. | Photo courtesy of DreamWorks
Much like his countryman Eddie Izzard, Ricky Gervais has never been able to find the right feature film material to properly showcase his sharp and unusual comic persona. While his television work in Britain (The Office, Extras) has been consistently brilliant, his American films have all proven to be profoundly lackluster. Unfortunately, that's a trend which continues in the dreadful Ghost Town. Half lame ghost story, half phony romance, Ghost Town is a needlessly sprawling, confusing and manipulative mess.
The film opens with lothario Greg Kinnear caught in a lie by his wife, Tea Leoni. He had intended to set up his yoga instructor girlfriend in a pied-a-terre in Manhattan only to have his scheme discovered when his real estate agent inadvertantly lets his wife know about it. That storyline quickly goes nowhere, of course, because Kinnear (mild spoiler) is run over by a metro bus a few moments later. It is--without doubt--the clumsiest, most poorly-staged death since Brad Pitt bought it in a similar fashion in Meet Joe Black.
So which mortgage are you buying off with the proceeds from this crappy movie? | Photo courtesy of DreamWorks
Once that happens, we lose track of Kinnear for awhile as we are introduced to Gervais' character, the vile dentist (of course) Bertram Pincus. Pincus is one of those people who doesn't seem to have time for anyone. In fact, Gervais is so successful at portraying him as a complete misanthrope that you never buy his eventual transformation into a (sort of) nice guy. One of the film's few bright spots does occur in these early scenes, however--the perfection that is Kristen Wiig has a long, funny sequence as Pincus' very well-tanned doctor.
Following Pincus' introduction, the machinations of the plot begin to creak forward. He dies for a short time during a colon operation (of course) and his death/re-birth allows him to see ghosts once he goes back out into the world. One of the ghosts he sees--obviously--is Greg Kinnear who is now inexplicably interested in saving his wife from a bad marriage. After some convincing (really just an overlong blackmail montage), he manages to enlist Pincus in his cause. If the movie was stilted before, it now becomes downright awful.
In any sort of valid reality, Leoni's character would properly hate Pincus but in the weird netherworld of Ghost Town she finds his constant priggishness endearing. Within the space of a few scenes, Pincus does manage to end Leoni's engagement (how I still don't really know) and by the end of the film she is somehow in love with this dick/tool. It's all just so absurd. As if this scenario was ridiculous enough, there's also a subplot wherein Pincus helps other ghosts end their pain so they can become angels. Yes, I did just type that.
The film is packed with even more sulfurous crap than I've already mentioned, but please save your money, time and spirit and don't go into the theater to find out what other horrors await you. Rent The Office or Extras (or virtually anything else) instead. Gervais, Kinnear and Leoni are all talented actors (to all Kinnear-haters--see his outstanding turn in Auto Focus for proof). In Ghost Town, though, they are all put in the service of a dreadful script and limp, disinterested direction from David Koepp. Avoid, avoid, avoid!