Ghost Town

A very British haunted romcom.

Released in 2008, certified UK-12A. Reviewed on 17 Dec 2008 by Scott Morris
Ghost Town image

Dentist Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) dies, briefly, during a routine operation, but gets better. The only difference being he can now see the hundreds of ghosts that haunt Noo Yawk, and it seems he's the only one who can. The spirits are keen to have him help finish whatever business binds their souls to the earth, although there's one problem with this. Pincus is a twat.

Taking great pains to remove himself from any human contact whatsoever to the extent that he really ought to find himself a nice cave up a mountain somewhere, Pincus thinks he's surrounded by idiots whom he has no time for. And, well, don't we all, but at least we're not rude enough to show it. At any rate, now he's being bothered by hordes of deadies with no respect for things like walls to separate themselves from Pincus, so the misanthropic dentist is forced into dealing with the spirits.

Primary amongst the voices of the dead is Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), who wants Bertram to interfere with the impending remarriage of his widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) to a human rights lawyer who Frank thinks isn't right for her. Gwen stays in the same apartment block as Bertram, although being a twat he hasn't noticed her in the slightest.

Ghost Town image

Predictably having had his eyes opened he starts to fall in love, at which point we're starting to slide more into a standard romcom setup, albeit with dead people loitering around.

This is not, however, a standard romcom. This is commendably restrained, and there can't be all that many romcom extant where the leads never actually kiss. As a structure this feels far more realistic, and far more in keeping with Pincus' rehabilitation from complete asshat to someone who probably wouldn't get stabbed in the face for being such a pillock.

Gervais makes the film, clearly. Even when being massively unlikeable as part of the character he's still so funny, acerbic and cutting that he remains sympathetic. There's moments of the sort of cringe-comedy of The Office that brought him to prominence, but never so much as to be overwhelming and serves more as a welcome reminder. Speaking as someone who's hardly the biggest Gervais fan in the world, the fact that I still found this really funny must be a welcome sign.

Kinnear and Leoni provide likeable support, and, well, there's not much wrong with it, to be honest. It's certainly several orders of magnitude better than the dismal trailer would suggest, and if you're looking for a spectral based laugh this will serve well, although I do rather wonder how well it will fly outside of the U.K.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.

David Koepp
Cast list:
Greg Kinnear (Frank Herlihy)
Ricky Gervais (Bertram Pincus D.D.S.)
T?a Leoni (Gwen)
Bill Campbell (Richard)
Aasif Mandvi (Dr. Prashar)