Ghost Town (review)

Maybe Ricky Gervais is a funny guy, but you’d never know it from this charmless excuse for a supernatural romantic comedy, which doesn’t have the first clue how to take advantage of his dry, tangential, self-deprecating wit. As Manhattan dentist Bertram Pincus — the name alone is expected to do some comic heavy lifting, and doesn’t — Gervais (Stardust) is a bitter, remote man perfectly content to be left alone… if only the movie would get off his back. After a near-death experience during a hospital procedure, he can suddenly see all the ghosts haunting New York, and every single damn one of them wants him to communicate with their still-living loved ones about the unfinished business that’s keeping them chained to the corporeal plane. That actually makes the flick sound more mysterious and spooky than it is: instead of aiming for a sense of wonder, writer-director David Koepp (Secret Window) and his coscreenwriter John Kamps (The Borrowers) shoot for a whisper-light sitcom sensibility that results in a movie that is empty, bland, and forgettable, even with such talents as Gervais and the usually irresistibly effervescent Greg Kinnear (Baby Mama) and Téa Leoni (You Kill Me) onboard. Kinnear’s been dead for a while, see, and begs Gervais to stop his widow (Leoni) from remarrying someone he believes isn’t right for her. Except now Bertram falls for her, in what must surely be one of the most forced instances of romantic attraction Hollywood has foisted upon us in years. Did I say there was no wonder here? There’s even less chemistry among any of the principals, and certainly none between Gervais and Leoni. As if to make up for that, Koepp lingers on utterly pointless asides — such as Bertram’s argument with his doctor over his NDE — that may be passingly amusing in themselves but connect in no way whatsoever with anything else we’re being offered. It all makes the 102-minute running time feel twice as long, and ten times as excruciating.

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