Rated: PG-13 for for some strong language, sexual humor and drug references.
Release Date: 2008-09-19
Starring: David Koepp, John Kamps
Official Website: http://www.ghosttownmovie.com/
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Ghost Town is one of those romantic comedies that never quite clicks. At times, its humor is effective, provoking chuckles and laughs. At other times, the comedy feels forced and awkward. The romantic element is equally hit-and-miss. The chemistry that emerges between the leads during the film’s second half is largely absent from the first 45 minutes. And the premise, rich with promise and pregnant with possibilities, is reduced to a plot device that allows Ghost Town to turn into a low-rent, modern-day version of A Christmas Carol.
The movie’s opening scene is a winner, with philanderer Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear) having a phone conversation with his wife, Gwen (Téa Leoni), who has just discovered he’s having an affair. Frank wraps up the call just as the curtain falls on his time on Earth. Director David Koepp orchestrates his end brilliantly, with a sleight-of-hand that is both funny and surprising. However, instead of making his way to the next life, Frank finds himself stuck in Manhattan as a ghost. He can see and hear everything, but is invisible and unable to do more than observe. Enter Bertram Pincus, D.D.S. (Ricky Gervais), the most unpleasant dentist in the city.
Ghost Town’s comedy is maddeningly inconsistent. Masterful sequences such as the opening one in which Frank meets his demise are interspersed with episodes that not only don’t work on a comedic level, but run on for too long. Consider, for example, an interchange between Bertram and his doctor (played by Kristen Wiig) in which both continuously interrupt each other. Like a bad, unfunny segment of Saturday Night Live, this drags on seemingly without end, becoming increasingly frustrating with every new interruption. Comedy is supposed to be funny, not annoying.
Those who take a glass half-full approach to Ghost Town will probably enjoy it the most. There is romance, there is comedy, and there is a feel-good ending. For some, those things will be enough, and the fact that they’re not as well developed or effectively nurtured as they might be will not be a significant detraction. Ultimately, however, the movie cries out for an offbeat approach such as the one Marc Forster utilized in Stranger than Fiction. Ghost Town’s unwillingness to escape from a safe orbit keeps the movie trapped in mediocrity.