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David Koepp
Ricky Gervais, Téa Leoni, Greg Kinnear, Aasif Mandvi, Kristen Wiig
Writing Credits:
David Koepp, John Kamps

He sees dead people ... and they annoy him.

A spirited romantic comedy, Ghost Town is the story of Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais), a cranky Manhattan dentist who develops the unwelcome ability to see dead people. Really annoying dead people. But, when a smooth-talking ghost (Greg Kinnear) traps Bertram into a romantic scheme involving his widow Gwen (Tea Leoni), they are entangled in a hilarious predicament between the now and the hereafter!

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$5.012 million on 1505 screens.
Domestic Gross
$13.214 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 12/27/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director David Koepp and Actor Ricky Gervais
• “Making Ghost Town” Featurette
• “Ghostly Effects” Featurette
• “Some People Can Do It” Featurette
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Ghost Town (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 19, 2008)

With TV series like The Office and Extras, Ricky Gervais has become a cult comedy hero who seems to be on the verge of mainstream stardom. If he makes that leap, he’ll have to wait another day, as his American movie debut in a leading role failed to find an audience. 2008’s Ghost Town quickly came and went, so it didn’t manage to break Gervais to the masses.

Gervais plays misanthropic dentist Bertram Pincus. During a routine colonoscopy, Betram briefly dies, and this leaves him with an unusual gift: he can see dead people. This quickly makes him a sensation among the deceased, as they recruit Bertram to take care of their unfinished business. Bertram doesn’t like dead people any more than he cares for the living, so he doesn’t exactly welcome this intrusion.

Frank (Greg Kinnear) offers Bertram a deal: if the dentist helps with his case, he’ll tell the other ghosts to leave Pincus alone. What does Frank want Bertram to do? Break up his wife Gwen’s (Tea Leoni) relationship with “slimeball” Richard (Billy Campbell). We follow Bertram’s efforts and how he starts to fall for Gwen.

If you sense that Ghost Town comes influenced by plenty of other flicks, you’ll sense correctly. On the obvious side, we see lots of Ghost and The Sixth Sense. Among other movies, you’ll find a definite Cyrano De Bergerac vibe.

Despite a moderate lack of originality, Town manages to feel reasonably fresh, largely due to the cast. None of the leads ever breaks a sweat here; they tend to play variations on roles they’ve done in the past. Nonetheless, they make the parts enjoyable and acceptably three-dimensional.

I especially like the chemistry between Kinnear and Gervais. When they interact, there’s a real spark there, and they bring some potentially blah segments to life. Their scenes together decrease as the flick progresses and Bertram spends more time with Gwen, so expect less comedy.

However, the movie makes a nice transition from the laughs to more heartfelt sequences, a factor aided by a warm performance from Leoni. She never feels stiff or one-dimensional. Instead, she contributes a fine turn in a potentially thankless part. We see why the various guys in her life love her, but she doesn’t come across as flawless or unrealistic. Sometimes Leoni’s performances suffer from too many tics and mannerisms, but those don’t affect things here; she remains more natural.

Working from a script he co-wrote, director David Koepp manages to balance comedy and emotion well. The story easily could turn mawkish and maudlin, but that never quite happens. Indeed, some of the sequences with various ghosts seem quite lovely and moving. The flick jumps from laughs to sentiment frequently but does so in a manner that feels appropriate and not jarring. That’s a neat trick, so I give Koepp kudos for his ability to maintain such good balance.

Yes, Ghost Town wears its influences on its sleeve, and it seems pretty predictable much of the time. Nonetheless, it provides a consistently engaging experience. It mixes tones well and boasts enough charm to make it enjoyable.

Ratings footnote: when did the well-known ban on more than one use of the “F-word” in a “PG-13” movie end? Ghost Town features that term twice yet maintains its “PG-13” rating. If I recall correctly, the “PG-13” Eagle Eye also went with two “F-bombs”.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Ghost Town appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Expect a decent transfer but not anything exciting.

Sharpness usually appeared fine. At times, however, I found the image to come across as somewhat fuzzy and soft, with lesser definition seen in some of the wide shots. Nonetheless, most of the movie appeared acceptably clear and appropriately focused. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no concerns, but I noticed mild to moderate edge enhancement at times. No print flaws materialized; the film remained clean and fresh.

In terms of colors, the flick went with a moderately subdued set of tones. Hues stayed on the natural side, with a mild golden feel to things. Within those parameters, the tones looked fine, though they could be a bit bland. Blacks were dark and firm, while shadows appeared clear and well-developed most of the time; a few shots appeared too thick, but those were infrequent. The image didn’t really excel, but it was acceptable.

As for the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it offered a functional effort and that was all. Of course, I didn’t expect a dazzling soundfield from this sort of comedy, and I got exactly what I anticipated. In terms of effects, general ambience ruled the day. Surround usage stayed limited; the back speakers gently fleshed out various settings but did no more than that.

In those forward channels, the music provided nice stereo separation and opened up the mix reasonably well. There wasn’t a whole lot of activity or movement, but the effects conveyed a passable sense of space and place. The track functioned appropriately for the story.

Audio quality appeared fine. Dialogue was consistently warm and natural, and speech displayed no concerns related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects were a minor component of the mix, and they seemed appropriately subdued and accurate; there wasn’t much to hear, but the various elements were clean and distinct. The music came across as acceptably distinctive. This was a standard “comedy mix” and became a decent reproduction of the material.

When we head to the extras, we start with an audio commentary from director David Koepp and actor Ricky Gervais. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss cast, performances and improvisation, sets and locations, story and script issues, effects, and a few other production areas.

However, Koepp and Gervais mostly just joke around with each other – and that’s perfectly fine with me. Oh, we learn a bit about the flick, but don’t expect a lot of facts and figures. Instead, the guys tend to kid with each other. That tendency could prove irritating, but it doesn’t. Koepp and Gervais are more than amusing enough to turn this into a consistently entertaining and enjoyable track.

Three featurettes follow. Making Ghost Town runs 22 minutes, 40 seconds and includes notes from Koepp, Gervais, screenwriter John Kamps, producer Gavin Polone, executive producer Ezra Swerdlow, costume designer Sarah Edwards, production designer Howard Cummings, and actors Greg Kinnear, Tea Leoni, Kristen Wiig, Billy Campbell, and Dana Ivey. We learn about the story’s origins and development, Koepp’s direction, cast, characters and performances, ghost costumes, sets and shooting in New York.

“Making” provides a pretty standard promotional featurette. While it dollops out enough useful information to make it interesting, it never rises above the level of mediocrity. It exists to promote the flick and it does so well; it simply fails to offer a scintillating examination of the movie’s creation.

Ghostly Effects goes for two minutes, two seconds and provides a basic glimpse of how the flick’s visuals worked. We get no narration; instead, we simply see various photographic elements and watch as they get composited into the final product. It’s not especially exciting; it offers a decent look at this side of things, though it’d work better with voiceover information.

Finally, Some People Can Do It lasts six minutes, 22 seconds, and presents a basic gag reel. With the amusing Ricky Gervais on the set, I’d hope to find some good improv bits here. A few of these appear, as we get a handful of alternate line readings. However, most of the segment just shows the usual goofs and giggles. In particular, Gervais seems unable to complete a scene without chortling.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Revolutionary Road, The Duchess, Eagle Eye, and Without a Paddle: Nature’s Calling. These also appear in the Previews area along with a promo for American Teen. No trailer for Ghost Town appears here.

Ghost Town probably should have been a dud. It features a fairly predictable story with the potential to get bogged down in cheap sentiment. However, it manages to overcome its pitfalls with a nice balance of clever comedy and believable emotion. The DVD presents generally average picture and audio as well as a few extras headlined by an entertaining audio commentary. While this doesn’t stand out as a stellar DVD, I like the movie and recommend it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5714 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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