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Ghost Town

Ghost Town

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

RICKY Gervais’ first Hollywood leading role may not mark that much of a departure for the comedian… but in Ghost Town‘s case it only adds to the charm of this romantic comedy.

Rather than conforming to all the usual cliches of a standard Hollywood rom-com, David Koepp’s film contains an indie sensibility that makes its more sentimental moments better earned. One suspects that Gervais was in part responsible for this.

Bertram Pincus (Gervais) is a grumpy, social misfit of a New York dentist who suddenly finds himself lumbered with the ability to see ghosts after “dying” briefly during a routine operation.

Primary among the spooks in his life is the late Frank Harlijy (Greg Kinnear), who promises to keep the remaining spirits at bay so long as Pincus helps to prevent his wife, Gwen (Téa Leoni), avoid marrying a smarmy new lawyer. Reluctantly, Pincus agrees but soon finds himself falling for Gwen as well.

Despite an awkward start, Ghost Town quickly establishes itself as a kooky romantic drama about redemption that trades well on Gervais’ winning comedy persona, as well as stretching his acting abilities in an interesting new direction.

He doesn’t stray too far but having intially exhibited the worst character traits of his David Brent persona, he then warms up as his heart starts to melt and he sees the opportunity for a new start in life in Leoni’s Gwen.

He and Leoni share some wonderful chemistry, especially when bonding over Pincus’ brand of humour (which feels improvised), while there’s also some nice interplay between Gervais and Kinnear’s selfish manipulator.

The resolution of the story is particularly endearing – and even poignant at times – proving that you don’t always have to stick to formula to tug at the heart-strings (Gervais doesn’t even get to kiss the girl!).

Koepp, for his part, makes good use of his New York locations and adds some nice visual touches among the ghosts, while sensibly avoiding the need to over-play the emotions.

The result, while still flawed at times, offers a charming evening at the multiplex that should leave viewers in suitably high spirits afterwards.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 102mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: March 2, 2009