Ghost Town review

Ghost Town offers few fresh ideas, but its two spirited leads breathe life into an old formula. As touching as you’d expect any bereavement film to be. Funnier than you were probably thinking Ricky Gervais’ Hollywood bow would be.

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And they say Americans don’t do irony. A film called Ghost Town set in New York, the busiest city in the world? It’s like Metropolis taking place in Winnersh. The
incongruity doesn’t stop there either.

This is a schmaltzy romcom directed by blockbuster screenwriter David Koepp and held together by Ricky Gervais – an actor best known for cringy dancing arse boss David Brent.

That it works is just flipping weird. Forget his forgettable cameos. It’s been five years since Wernham Hogg and while Gervais has hardly been slacking (Extras, podcasts, films, Flanimals), this is what his credentials as a bigscreen actor will be judged on.

He plays Brit dentist Bertram Pincus, a misanthrope who dies for seven minutes during a botched op. That brief passing means that dead people can now
see him – especially Greg Kinnear’s Frank Herlihy, who wants Bertram to help out his widow Gwen (Téa Leoni).

That’s the set-up. It is, essentially, Just Like The Sixth Ghost. He sees the carked it, the bereaved need help, there’s unfinished business. Fresh twists to the
much-mined living-interacting-with-the-dead genre are few and far between. As such, it’s a safe launch for the UK’s best comedian’s assault on middle-America. He’s got a likeable face. There’s nothing too controversial here. But exciting for the fans?

That’s where his double-act with Kinnear comes in. Neither actor (no offence) is exactly a heartthrob, but by making Herlihy a two-timer – his motives iffy – it’s a welcome smashing of romcom convention. There is no lead male to unequivocally root for and any burgeoning relationship between Gwen (lovely) and Bertram (bumbling fool) is refreshingly downplayed.

Ghost Town is a considered mainstream move for Gervais. Next up is his co-written, co-directed This Side Of The Truth. That will be the test of whether his own comedy can snug with bigscreen audiences. But for now, him (and Kinnear) have made a derivative romcom watchable. No mean feat.

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