Ghost Town

Posted on December 30, 2008 at 8:30 am

Bertram Pincus, D.D.S. sees dead people. And he’s very crabby about it.

Bertram (Ricky Gervais, creator and star of the original British version of “The Office”) doesn’t much like any kind of people, living or dead. He likes being a dentist because the people he deals with mostly have their mouths full of cotton. After a bad reaction to the anesthetic during a colonoscopy has him “dead” for seven minutes, he can suddenly see ghosts everywhere and they start following him around like the Verizon wireless network. They all want him to do something so that they can rest in peace but he has no more interest in helping them than he does with the living humans in his life, including his partner, his patients, or the very pretty woman who lives in his building.

It turns out she is Gwen (Téa Leoni ). Her late husband Frank (Greg Kinnear) is the most persistent of the ghosts because he wants Bertram to stop Gwen from marrying a human rights lawyer (Billy Campbell). Betram decides the only way to do that is to woo her himself.

The story is creaky and predicatable — a little humiliation humor here, a little learning that it’s relationships that matter there, not to mention the colonoscopy humor. Director David Koepp is better known as a screenwriter (“Spider-Man” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”). The script is over-long and clunky and his visual sense is a little claustrophobic and sit-com-ish. But Gervais and Leoni are so completely charming that they make it work. It isn’t often that you see a couple really connect in a movie. Usually that moment is glossed over with a syrupy montage or having them discover that they both collect bottle caps or something. But here the easy and genuine (and sometimes politically incorrect) laughter Bertram and Gwen share keeps us smiling with them.

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