Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ricky Gervais, Téa Leoni, Greg Kinnear, Dana Ivey, Alan Ruck, Aasif Mandvi, Kristen Wiig
Written by: David Koepp, John Kamps
Directed by: David Koepp
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language, sexual humor and drug references
Running Time: 102
Date: 09/05/2008

Ghost Town (2008)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

When the Spirit Moves You

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Ricky Gervais brilliantly translates his bitter, selfish comedy persona to a romantic lead, unlike what Steve Coogan failed to pull off in Hamlet 2. Gervais plays Bertram Pincus (!), a New York dentist who keeps to himself and doesn't mind stepping over others to ensure his own privacy and comfort. During a routine medical procedure, he dies for several minutes, the result of which enables him to see the spirits of dead New Yorkers. These specters (played by a range of great character actors, like Dana Ivey and Alan Ruck) begin to pester him for favors. One recently deceased fellow, Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear) -- who happened to die while wearing a tux -- promises him freedom from the other ghosts if he'll help keep his widow from marrying a suspicious new man. The widow turns out to be Gwen (Téa Leoni -- never better), an Egyptologist who lives in Bertram's building and has been the recipient of his brand of un-neighborly behavior. The general arc is probably fairly predictable, but the gifted writer/director David Koepp (Spider-Man, etc.) focuses on moments rather than the arc, so that the characters get their own breathing room. The trickiest part, Gervais' transformation into a decent soul, is handled with extraordinary tenderness and grace. Best of all, it has one of the finest closing sequences I think I've ever seen in a film. This one's a keeper.

DVD Details: Universal's DVD comes with a commentary track by Koepp and Gervais, as well as several featurettes.

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