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Non-Review Review: Ghost Town

I love Sky Anytime. It gives me the opportunity to watch stuff I would normally miss at a time that suits me. This weekend, for example, I sat down for Saturday lunch and decided to see what was available to watch. I found Ghost Town, a movie which never really became large enough to warrant a cinema trip and my family’s Gervais-aversion ruled out a rent. So, I switched it on and I was reasonably impressed with this modern spoof on the ghost story subgenre. There’s nothing too strange or startling or new here, but it’s a solidly entertaining comedy and a more than pleasant diversion.

Dead people see him...

Dead people see him...

David Koepp is on strong form here (which is surprising given his recent credits include Spider-Man III and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), and proves himself a more than capable director. It helps that he has two great leads to anchor the story. Yes, Gervais seems to only really have one mode (smarmy), but he tends to play within his range. And Greg Kinnear really deserves to be a leading actor at this stage of his career, here managing to be equally exploitive and sleazy. The two have a great chemistry.

The plot is delightfully straightforward – Gervais dies on the operating table for a few minutes and gains the ability to see dead people. And he does what any sane person would do. He runs away from them. Really fast.

The movie makes Gervais’ character a jerk – a real jerk, not necessarily the Hollywood jerk archetype. He dislikes people and – seen as this is a comedy and the people he interacts with are generally comedic supporting characters (a surgeon obsessed with fake tan, for example) – this seems almost reasonable. Gervais has the antisocial, selfish character thing down to a “t”. The movie is clever and witty, thankfully more in the style of classic comedies than conventional grossout hits.

I do have reservations though, most stemming from the ending. The movie just lets itself fall into a “fell good” mode, with the character learning all manner of necessary life lessons and become a better, well-rounded person for it. Admittedly it isn’t as bad as it sounds, and formula and convention aren’t necessarily bad things of themselves, but seem like a disappointing movie from a film that had prided itself on being honest about how complex human relationships can be. Here it’s as simple as becoming a goody guy to get the good girl. Maybe it’s a conscious stylistic element harking back to classic comedies (c’mon, Kinnear spends the movie as a ghost in tux, when was the last time a lead did that?), but I was expecting… more.

But that is a minor complaint. What Koepp and Gervais have given us here is a good old-fashioned romantic comedy (with ghosts). If it doesn’t ellicit at least a smile from you, you should probably check your pulse.

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