Hollywood loves a good dead man walking. There are handfuls of ghost movies sitting out there on the shelves of your local Blockbuster, all revolving around some unfortunate sap who’s been shuffled off this mortal coil a bit too soon for his liking.
Some of these movies are good, some are bad, and some make you wonder how they were green-lit for production on anything but the Lifetime Channel.
‘Ghost Town,’ you will be happy to know, does not fall into the last category. But, like the ghosts it’s about, it slips into a limbo. It’s not good, but it’s not annoyingly formulaic, either.
The movie follows grumpy dentist Bertram Pincus, a British import to Manhattan, played with hilarious precision by Ricky Gervais, the man behind the original British version of ‘The Office.’
Pincus is almost as unpleasant as his name makes him sound, and he walks around letting elevator doors shut on people and stealing taxis from under the noses of folks carrying heavy packages.
Karma has its revenge, however, after a routine colonoscopy goes awry.’
Pincus dies, is revived, and wakes up to find that he can suddenly see and — much to his chagrin — hear the dead.
This sets the movie up for a good first half of poor Pincus being harassed by spirits day and night, one of whom always appears naked.
It’s fun to watch the poor man run from a literal army of people that only he can see, and Gervais pulls it off with a Simon Cowell-esque frustration.
The most persistent of these spirits is Frank (Greg Kinnear), who shows up demanding that Pincus break up the upcoming nuptials of his widow, Gwen (Tea Leoni).
While Frank never really gives a satisfactory reason for this demand — and neither does the script — Pincus finally breaks down and gives in and somehow manages to fall in love with Gwen, a woman he has inexplicably never noticed despite the fact that she’s lived in his building for more than a year.
This is where the movie loses some of it’s footing, as it slowly falls into predictability.
It’s not a terribly tedious process, however, and Gervais and Kinnear have you so utterly charmed (well . . . perhaps for Gervais ‘charmed’ is not the right word) that you’re willing to go along with it – even as the movie saunters toward a conclusion that anyone, dead or alive, could have seen coming.