Ghost Town (PG-13, Paramount)

film_ghost_sm.jpgThe best part of Ghost Town is Ricky Gervais as Bertram Pincus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) in an ass. He’s cranky, guarded, and rude and would rather you leave him the hell alone…and he often shows it. But, when a routine medical procedure goes badly, Pincus finds he won’t soon be alone again.

Pincus is now followed by a persistent bunch of Manhattan’s ghosts who want him to soothe the minds and hearts of their still-living loved ones on their behalf. The moody Pincus resists their insistent pleas with little luck, until ghostly Frank (Greg Kinnear) offers him a deal he can’t refuse: help Frank stop his widow, Gwen (Tea Leoni), from remarrying and he’ll keep the other dead away from him.

Ghost Town isn’t exactly the best movie in ages, but it will put a smile on your face and might even make you tear up a little bit.

Pincus and his vaporous friend Frank begin to plot ways to tear Gwen away from her new love as Pincus finds new meaning for his life by dealing with her. See, in trying not to be a dick with Gwen, Pincus realizes how good it is to have someone to talk to once in a while.

There are two small but important changes to the standard get-my-ex-away-from-that-new-man plotlines that make Ghost Town work better than most movies that use the same idea. First, the fiancé is basically a nice guy. He’s a little bit stiff and serious, but there’s nothing actually wrong with him. Usually in cases like this the new man is an ass extraordinaire.

Secondly, and maybe most important, is that Frank cheated on Gwen and was much more of an oaf than her fiancé’. Not only that, but Frank is still a cocky jackass, even in death. It’s pretty clear that only an impossible amount of charm and a full head of hair could have trapped Gwen in his egotistical web to begin with.

Kinnear is a natural with dickwad characters who have an icky, frat-boy-like magnetism. He bravely lets Frank keep his egotistical edge all the way through. And while I never really got Leoni’s appeal, she does Gwen’s professionally accomplished but personally frustrated character justice.

The best part of Ghost Town, though, is Gervais as Pincus. He manages to be ill-mannered and arrogant but still show us a glimmer of why Pincus is the way he is. As he did with David Brent in the British version of The Office (with a character so desperate to be adored that he did all the wrong things all the time), Gervais successfully gives us a character who would rather push everyone away and be lonely than risk getting hurt. It’s possible that if Gervais continues to choose the right parts he could become an attractively oddball leading man. | Adrienne Jones

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