Ricky Gervais is an extremely funny and talented actor. His television work is on a par of it's own and he will probably always have a following as he moves from one project to the next, bringing an eccentric, slightly off comedic bent to his unique characters. And his film work has also been good, to a point, as he provides memorable cameos to one project after another, most recently, a funny role in the underrated fantasy "Stardust", a bit part in the mega-hit "Night at the Museum" and a funny role in "For Your Consideration", practically saving that film from oblivion.
But "Ghost Town" is Gervais' first starring role and the film is a financial flop. No one went to see it in the theater. Why didn't his loyal fan base flock to the film?
Gervais plays Bertram Pincus, a dentist living and working in New York City who has a hard time making friends. It doesn't help that he is one mean SOB, he doesn't hold the elevator for Gwen (Tea Leoni), a pretty, young widow living in his building. In fact, he also steals her cab just as it is about to rain cats and dogs. Betram's problem is that he has so isolated himself from the outside world; he doesn't see the outside world anymore. After Bertram wakes up from a mishap at the hospital able to see ghosts. He later learns that he briefly died, during the routine operation, giving him his new ability. When the ghosts realize he has this ability, they begin following him around; eager for him to help them communicate with their living loved ones. Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), the victim of an accident, realizes Bertram can help him stop his widow's marriage to her new husband, a real jerk, played by Billy Campbell. His widow is, of course, Gwen.
Gervais is, as always, great. His comedic timing allows him to perfect this character, a real SOB who seems to care about nothing. He seems exasperated with the public at large and tries to avoid human contact at all cost. When the ghosts start to follow him, he is visibly alarmed and doesn't want to have anything to do with them. But Frank is a little different, more persistent and Bertram realizes his widow is extremely beautiful and he is shocked to learn she is a neighbor. As Frank continues to push Bertram toward his widow, the film follows the Cyrano de Bergerac formula pretty closely. And you can probably accurately guess the outcome of the film. His comedic timing
Kinnear is good, if a bit showy as Frank, the ghost who wants to make sure his wife makes the right decision. An adulterer, he is trying to hide the fact he just rented a second apartment for he and his girlfriend to use from Gwen, when he is killed. This is the reason he is so intent on making sure she finds true love. He feels guilty. Tea Leoni is also good as Gwen, the independent, strong woman caught in the middle.
"Ghost Town" is a very predictable film. It isn't a bad film, there are some laughs, but I think the predictable nature of the story and the low key delivery certainly didn't blow any viewers away. Writer and director David Koepp seems to be paying homage to comedies of the 30s and 40s and it is an interesting idea. And Gervais should be the perfect person to make this work. But the laughs are too far and few between and the story doesn't offer any true surprises.
It is the perfect film to experience on DVD.