Ghost Town (2008) **

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1hr 42min
Director: David Koepp
Stars: Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, Téa Leoni
Genre: Comedy
Language: English

Lighten Up – For Heaven's Sake!

In a Nutshell

Plot

Straight as an Arrow
Twisty

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear
Incomprehensible

Who's That?

Few Main Characters
Lots

Naughty Words

Mild
Foul

Naked people

None
Lots

Violence

Tame
Bloody

Ghost Town gets a multi-genre billing as comedy-fantasy-romance.  In this busy mix, you might expect to experience effervescence, a quality of lightness and frivolity that this film conspicuously lacks.  This reviewer just happened to “bookend” Ghost Town with cable reruns of Topper (to which Ghost Town bears thematic similarity), and What’s New Pussycat (another benchmark comedy of its own, special era).  Okay, so they’re both a little dated — sentimental and mannered on one side — on the other, frenetically focused on infidelity.   But, these two oldies, goodies float upon the air.  Ghost Town is weighed down by the directorial effort (David Koepp’s) to remind the audience at every moment that what they are seeing is Very, Very Funny.   Somehow, this labor never succeeds.

That’s not to say the premise — or the premises of the movie — lack humor and sentiment.   1:  A cheating husband (Greg Kinnear) suffers death-by-Blackberry and can’t find heavenly rest until he puts things right with the woman he left behind.   2:  A clever, lovely gal (Téa Leoni) with a penchant for cheating husbands and a peculiar fascination for the mummified remains of Egyptian kings learns to let go of grief and gets a new lease on life.  3:  A cold zombie of a dentist, Ghost Town’s leading nerd (Ricky Gervais), wins the rare opportunity to become a true mensch and find love, as the result of a botched colonoscopy.  4.  A legion of invisible lost souls wandering Manhattan, causing inexplicable respiratory distress to the city’s inhabitants, manage to provoke sufficient existential angst in the dentist that he does for them what they cannot do for themselves.  There’s more — but not room to cover it all here.

The best moments in this film are some well-written and beautifully performed scenes with Gervais and Leoni, Kinnear hovering not-so-ethereally in the background, and Billy Campbell who plays the widow’s new fiancé.   Each personality emerges from a flat sheet of paper like an origami crane, or maybe a penguin.  Another bright spot:  the surgeon (Kristen Wiig) agilely defends her hospital’s legal vulnerability after depriving a patient of seven minutes of life.  However, endless jokes about every aspect of human and animal digestion, heavy-handed setups for the physical comedy (as if we didn’t know what was coming), and somber pronouncements on the human condition (as if we didn’t know what’s coming), are unnecessary when the acting is that good.

Ghost Town doesn’t fly lightly by, as it should, but it does entertain with no little assistance from the music.  “I’m Lookin’ Through You” is a cunning choice for the opening shots; thank Geoff Zanelli for that.  Also credit Fred Murphy and Sam Seig for an imaginative blend of cinematography and editing that manages to give Ghost Town some extra lift, after all.

Lynn McCann's checkered professional life began with dance and has included singing and acting, writing and journalism, teaching and tutoring. A long career as a computer programmer is mercifully behind her and she looks forward to publishing a memoir, a biography, and a popular history of automation technology. She continues to perform as a singer, and leads New York City tours for Elderhostel.

Comments

Terry said on September 25, 2008

 

If you do see it again, really concentrate on Ricky’s teeth. Appalling!! But he’s subtly brilliant IMHO. Thanks.

Lola said on October 24, 2009

 

I have seen it more than once, and I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a funny and at times quite original take on a familiar concept. Laughed out loud a number of times :-) Sorry that you didn’t get a lot out of it, but your review was something to think about.

more said on December 3, 2016

Seniors, speak up! Let us know what you think.

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