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Ghost Town review

Ghost Town
12Acertificate 12A
Running time: 102 minutes
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, Téa Leoni, Billy Campbell, Kristen Wiig
Rating 7 out of 10
David Brent has gone from Slough to Ghost Town (which some may consider the same place). In other words, Ricky Gervais has successfully brought his distinctive style of uncomfortable, socially awkward humour to the big screen. Other than the odd cameo film role, Gervais has confined his work to television, but his hilarious and heartfelt depiction of the misanthropic dentist Bertram Pincus suggests he has a promising future in the movies.

Coming up with an original story involving ghosts is tough, clearly too tough for director David Koepp and his co-writer John Kamps. The plot is of the standard, well-worn redemptive, romantic comedy variety. But in Gervais they have a unique comic voice and it's essentially his central performance that elevates Ghost Town above the mire of mediocre spectral fare.

During the course of a routine colonoscopy operation, Pincus clinically dies for seven minutes. After leaving hospital he discovers he's now able to see dead people. Considering he was never thrilled by having to deal with the living, he's positively infuriated fending off ghosts. They follow him everywhere trying to solicit his help in moving on to the afterlife.

The recently deceased Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear) wants Pincus to prevent his widowed wife Gwen (Téa Leoni) from marrying the seemingly perfect human rights lawyer Richard (Billy Campbell), but during the course of his mission, Pincus finds himself falling in love with Gwen.

To its credit, Ghost Town resists engaging in lots of supernatural effects wizardry. Instead it's more focused on the characters, in particular Pincus and his transition from stonehearted curmudgeon to a beating-hearted curmudgeon. Its considerable humour comes from their exchanges rather than the more obvious opportunities that present themselves whenever ghosts interact with the real world.

What makes Gervais so effective is that, in addition to Pincus' cringingly blunt insensitivity, he exhibits evidence of real vulnerability. It is what made David Brent human as opposed to a caricature. Despite his rudeness, you still like him. Gervais is supported admirably by Kinnear and Leoni, while Kristeen Wiig delivers a scene-stealing performance as the surgeon responsible for Pincus' brief encounter with death. Her attitude of casual indifference to having, temporarily at least, killed Pincus is hysterical.

Plenty of actors have made a successful career of essentially playing the same character. If Ghost Town is anything to go by, then Gervais' looks well set to join their ranks.

Kevin Murphy

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