Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ghost Town

"Ghost Town" is a very, very (excuse the term) forgettable romantic comedy if you will about ghosts who stay on Earth before going to Heaven because they have "unfinished business" to take care of. From this phrase, you know the film is relegated to a very cliche, mainstream mold that has been tested time and time again to very similar results. There have been quite brilliant films about ghosts before. Anthony Minghella's classic "Truly Madly Deeply" features British actress Juliet Stevenson trying to get over deceased husband Alan Rickman, who comes back to her, with sometimes very funny results. With more scope, "Ghost Town" could be somewhere near here, but really what it comes off as is a sort of low-grade "Ghost" that's not quite as dark. This little, harmless comedy centers around Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais), who's a dentist. He's also a miserable person. This sends the movie down a very familiar path, but a little more assuredly, because Gervais is quite good at being an arse. The problem is, he's not given enough real room to be one. He's used to his usual uncut humor, and I find him quite funny, since I am a person who unabashedly likes comedians such as George Carlin. But here, he's forced to act dramatically, which is not quite his forte. I give him credit, though. This film could have been extremely awful if he hadn't signed on. But still, he can't really do much, since he's forced to roll with the flow. Anyways, he receives a colonoscopy and feels quite funny afterwards, hallucinating and all. He goes back to the hospital and finds out he has died for a few minutes due to an inept anesthetist. Now, he sees the dead people who have to, as they say, "make things right." One such person is Frank (Greg Kinnear), a husband who has not had a good relationship with his spouse. His spouse, Gwen, is played by the master of misinformed retaliators and people who get vented on by jerks, Tea Leoni. This itself is quite a change that could have been made. See, Leoni brings charm, but also a feeling that we've already seen this whole thing played out. Leoni was in "The Family Man" with Nic Cage, another movie with a supernatural happening. There, the film worked, since it was anchored by Cage's neurotic presence, especially in the immortal "funnel cake" scene. Here, there is no actor that can switch from comedy to drama fast. There is only Gervais. Well, there is also Kinnear, who provides some hilarious chemistry, but it can't go on long because of the Invisibility Rule, which is another instance of the plot holding back the humor. Also, the ghosts in the film are almost intolerably annoying. I guess David Koepp, the film's director, thought this was funny somehow, but it really isn't. Yes, there are scenes that were amusing. When Pincus tries to court Gwen by the will of Frank (since she will marry the charitable but boring Richard, played by Bill Campbell), Gervais opens up a little bit and lets fly some off-the-wall humor. But, as often is the case, the structure prohibits this from happening too much and sends us down a slow road towards an uninspired ending, trying desperately to get us to laugh with silly gimmicks (if you pass through a ghost, you will sneeze) and other ruthlessly begging shenanigans. The script needs retooling, definitely. A great film may have resulted from a Charlie Kaufman ghost script, since that would have been more open to possibility. You would also need a recast. Even Jim Carrey might be able to hold down a film such as this, but I would go deeper. The point is, you can't really find what's needed here in this "Ghost Town." C

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