Ricky Gervais is a British comedian who is a prime candidate for making it big in Hollywood. His style of comedy has spawned fans on both sides of the pond and it’s great to see him have a go at more global success. As his first big lead he has chosen Ghost Town, a mostly funny, often hilarious, seldom boring, and consistently entertaining comedy.
Gervais plays Bertram Pincus, an ill-mannered, obnoxious dentist who one day unexpectedly dies during a routine operation. Revived after seven minutes, he wakes up to discover he has gained the annoying ability to see ghosts.
I have a strong suspicion that without Gervais Ghost Town would be a fairly run-of-the-mill comedy. Aside from the refreshingly original script this is pretty standard fare with elements that general audiences will be very familiar with, although one could argue that the role is not just well suited to Gervais but he embodies what the role is. He is Bertram Pincus. So in that way you might not be too impressed with a comedian who is basically just being himself for the most part. But for me, that’s what makes the film work. He’s the force which drives the script; his dry, sarcastic delivery of the lines is the lifeblood of the entire project. I’m not sure that anyone else could have played this part; I certainly can’t think of anyone who would deliver the lines as well and that is again why Gervais is perfect for the role.
As a comedy Ghost Town works on many levels but when you throw the element of romance in there that’s where it becomes a bit iffy. Gervais isn’t exactly your model of what a romantic lead is supposed to be (perhaps in that way it’s refreshing to see) and therefore when any amount of romance is attempted it comes off as forced and unnatural. So Ghost Town fails on the romantic front; however injection of a witty script and often hilarious delivery provides much worth in it as a whole.
The idea of Ghost Town is like a cross between Ghost and The Sixth Sense, only looking a bit more on the funny side of life (or, perhaps, death). Bertram's newfound ability and its uses is well-executed. Dialogue between ghosts and Gervais brings about laughs, for example, from incidents where the living will look strangely at him for talking, apparently, to no one. Another funny scene that has nothing to do with ghosts is one involving a large dog and Gervais gagging repeatedly; you can never underestimate the effectiveness of physical humour.
Along with Gervais himself it’s the script which raises Ghost Town above standard fare. The film is not afraid to use jokes that probably will offend a few people, such as an extended gag about a fellow dentist who’s Indian and how his religion relates to his profession. It’s got a refreshingly unique mix of safe comedy and controversy.
The supporting cast are pretty much perfect for their roles. Greg Kinnear, who up until Little Miss Sunshine was a criminally underrated actor, is always a joy to watch. He has this witty, natural charisma that seems to lend itself extremely well to every role he takes on. Tea Leoni plays Kinnear’s wife and as per usual she is cute and charming and balances up the romance which Gervais sadly fails to offer convincingly.
I suspect that most people who see Ghost Town will enjoy it. It’s not going to go down in history as one of the all time comedy classics but those are never going to come often. Ghost Town provides consistent laughs, particularly because of Gervais’ dry and sarcastic delivery of the lines, and a warm storyline. It may not work anywhere near as well in the romance department, but there are more than enough laughs to make it worthwhile.