During the week before Ghost Town's release I read that co-writer/director Daivd Koepp regretted casting British comedian Ricky Gervais as his lead. Why would he say such a thing? It apparently had nothing to do with Gervais personally or with his performance. Rather it had to do with Gervais not being terribly well known to American audiences, which could possibly translate to audiences choosing a movie with a better known star.
It was a statement I took at face value, not that it had any effect on my interest in the film since I'm familiar with Gervais's work and was interested in the story's concept. Now, after the fact, I do a quick search and find that, as happens so many times, the quote was interpreted incorrectly; there was no regret involved. Mr. Koepp responded to the misquote, saying: "...Ricky Gervais is the single greatest thing about our film..." Now there is something I can agree with.
The story blends the supernatural with comedy and romance. It is not a perfect mix, but it is one that works because it is a little different, a little off-kilter. Why is it different? I would have to say it is a combination of the screenplay, by Koepp and John Kamps (the two previously collaborated on Zathura), and the performance of one Ricky Gervais. Could it have been better? Probably. Few films are perfect. This is one satisfying movie. It's very accessible, but it still feels different, and again it goes back to the script and Gervais.
As the story opens, we meet Frank (Greg Kinnear). He is walking down the street in a tuxedo and is on the phone with his wife. It appears that the man has just been caught cheating. Well, he meets a quick and unexpected end in a sequence that actually caught me off guard. Rather than passing on to whatever the afterlife happens to be, he finds himself stuck in Manhattan as a ghost. Enter Bertram Pincus, DDS (Ricky Gervais), an antisocial jackass who seems to revel in his unreasonable behavior.
Well, our unlikable tooth driller goes to the hospital for a routine colonoscopy. During the procedure he "dies" from a reaction to the anesthetic, but the crack medical team is able to bring him back. In the process of being revived, Pincus did not come back alone, as happens in many horror films. He now has the ability to see dead people. This is something that he does not welcome, initially believing the visions to be hallucinations. Of course they aren't, and this makes our unlikable fellow very popular among the dead.