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Ghost Town /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, Téa Leoni, Alan Ruck, Jeff Hiller

Directed by: David Koepp

Produced by: Gavin Polone
Written by: David Koepp, John Kamps
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

     If one was to ask me a year ago who I thought would best elevate the mediocre quality of a sitcommish farce about an angry dentist who gets in touch with his softer side when he discovers he can talk to ghosts after temporarily dying at the hand of anesthesia, I might have cited Ghost Town’s exact writer/director and cast. Who better than David Koepp, the imaginative scribe of products as diverse as Secret Window and Spider-Man, to lift a mundane idea from its own shortcomings by providing its characters with quirky personalities and its situations with clever ironies? And who else but the dryly hysterical Ricky Gervais could fittingly play the token pudgy, sardonic dentist at the center of the action? The affable Greg Kinnear and the lovely Téa Leoni would have probably come to mind as candidates for the respective roles of Gervais’ (slightly irritating) ghost pal and his love interest, too.

     Even though Ghost Town indeed fuses all of the wonderful talents of its filmmaker and cast-members, it unfortunately still isn’t a very good movie. Yes, Koepp, Gervais, Kinnear, and Leoni all deliver in their particular roles—well, except for maybe Koepp, who is responsible for at least half of the drab concept (he co-wrote the film with John Kamps)—but the movie nonetheless can’t help but feel minor and uninteresting in nature. Like its aforementioned sitcommish premise, the film doesn’t strive for much other than to mildly entertain its viewers for 100-minutes and hence doesn’t achieve anything more than such a goal. (And, seriously, would you knowingly fork over $10 to see a movie that, however painless, represented nothing new to you? Only seek out Ghost Town if the answer to that question is “yes.”)

     The movie even manages to screw up what should be surefire winning emotional-elements. For example: as likable as Gervais’ protagonist Bertram Pinkus may become as he learns what it means to care for others—even those not living—there isn’t much of a reason for the viewer to care for Bertram himself. Similar to the whole of Ghost Town, Bertram the character never quite overcomes the fact that he seems like a stock creation. Even when he runs into entertaining amusements at various points in the film’s plot—a scene in which he and Leoni’s character analyze the dentition of a human-artifact comes to mind (yes, it’s more charming than it sounds on paper)—these can’t help but feel manufactured themselves because they are so clearly intended to be “cute” interludes in a prefab whole.

     I’m already running out of things to say about Ghost Town a mere three paragraphs into this review. The movie is pleasant for the viewer while it lasts but will prove equally as unpleasant for them when after seeing it they realize they wasted almost two hours for nothing but shallow entertainment not unlike that which could be seen for free on TV. Given that I no longer wish to bask in such unpleasantness myself, I’ll merely conclude with four words of caution on Ghost Town: wait for the DVD.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 9.16.2008

Screened on: 9.9.2008 at the Landmark in West Los Angeles, CA.


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