Ghost Town most under-rated comedy of ’08

Zack Rosenblatt ('09)/Eastside Entertainment Editor

Rated PG-13 for some strong language, sexual humor and drug references

102 minutes

In Theaters: September 19th

Released to DVD: December 27th

Directed by David Koepp (Secret Window)

Starring: Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, Tea Leoni, Kristen Wiig, Alan Ruck

 

Ricky Gervais, the British comedian responsible for two of television’s funniest creations in The Office and Extras, further establishes himself as one of the funniest comedians/actors around with his starring role in Ghost Town. Gervais plays Bertram Pincus, a misanthrope in a profession that typically entails people-skills-dentistry.

Pincus is a man focused on blocking all others from interrupting his day-to-day routine, and simply does not FEEL like forming any relationships. Everything seems to be going fine in his life (at least, from his point of view) until he has to undergo the much-dreaded colonoscopy operation. Some could argue that after having a tube inserted into their buttocks that their life would be changed, but no one’s colonoscopy altered their lives to the extent of Bertram Pincus’.

Following his operation, a surgeon on the operation (played by SNL‘s scene-stealing, hilarious Kristen Wiig) reveals that Pincus actually died (“A little bit.”) for seven minutes (“A bit less.”) during this seemingly routine operation. This near-death experience ‘grants’ Pincus the ability to communicate with ghosts.

In a sort of comedic take on Sixth Sense, the only reason the ghosts appear to him is because, prior to their deaths, each ghost had some sort of unfinished business that Pincus could help to remedy. Obviously, since people are the one thing that Pincus hates most, helping dead people was obviously not what he had in mind.

The banter between Pincus and the needy ghosts is priceless, especially the ongoing comedic feud with Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear). Kinnear was surprisingly humorous in his key-supporting role, and his tuxedo-clad ghost died an arrogant, cheating snob and he really had no idea what sort of un-finished business he had left. His widow, Gwen (Tea Leoni), moved on to a new relationship and was engaged to a philanthropic man (played by Billy Campbell).

Frank initially assumes his purpose to break up this marriage, and he enlists the help of Pincus. Kinnear and Gervais prove a formidable duo, and Frank ends up being the one to change Pincus’ outlook on life. 

Although Tea Leoni continues to be miscast in comedies, the film was saved on the base of Gervais’ lively performance. Gervais not only established himself as downright hilarious, but he showcased some unprecedented acting chops rarely seen in a comedian.  He managed to make his character sentimental, despite the fact that he was an arrogant misanthrope through the majority of the film.

Director David Koepp, well-known for his frequent collaborations with Steven Spielberg, created an original comedy with an emotional center, a rarity in today’s world of raunchy “R”- rated comedies. The combination of Ricky Gervais’ performance, the witty dialogue and original humor make Ghost Town THE most underrated comedy of 2008. Once Ricky Gervais inevitably generates more popularity in the United States, we will all look back at his performance in Ghost Town and wonder why nobody bothered to see the film.

Grade: 3/4