Ricky Gervais Sees Dead People in Ghost Town


It takes a good while for Ricky Gervais to warm up in Ghost Town; it takes even longer for the audience to warm up to Ricky Gervais. During the opening minutes of the film—an occasionally effective mash-up of Ghost, The Sixth Sense, and The Frighteners—Gervais is nearly mute as Bertram Pincus, D.D.S., a dentist who enjoys his work because it allows him the peace and quiet that comes with sticking cotton balls into his patients’ mouths. He’s a “sad little man,” says one observer; “a fucking prick,” says another. But following a brief period of death on an operating table, Bertram sees dead people. And the dead, of course, bring him back to life—especially Greg Kinnear’s tuxedoed Frank, offed while shouting down the realtor who revealed his affair. Frank latches onto Bertram in the desperate hope that he can bust up the remarriage of his widow (Tea Leoni). If it sounds all so pale and predictable, it is. Director and co-writer David Koepp, more or less remaking his 1999 film Stir of Echoes with a romantic comedy’s dopey grin this time, does little to break with the genre’s conventions. But Ghost Town, dead on arrival throughout much of its first half, picks up as it slows down—when it ditches the decidedly dreary romantic slapshtick of the living and focuses, however briefly, on the needy, aching dead.