July 16, 2009 -- One of the awards this film won last year was “Best Overlooked Film” from the Central Ohio Film Critics Association. It certainly deserved that distinction. One of the reasons it was overlooked was poor theatrical distribution in the United States. The film simply never opened all year in many theaters around the country. It wouldn't have shown in Laramie at all except for the aptly-named “Not Shown Before at a Theater Near You Film Series”, and it only showed there because I chose it. I pick half the films in this annual Laramie summer series. I was very pleased at the positive comments from people after this funny little romantic comedy had shown.
“Ghost Town” is a movie which picks up one of the story lines from the popular film “Ghost,” in which a character played by Whoopi Goldberg suddenly becomes able to hear ghosts, and the ghosts begin making numerous demands of her, making her life miserable. In this film, dentist Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais of the TV series “The Office”) dies during an operation, but is revived after a few minutes. When he comes back to life he can see and hear ghosts. Of course, nobody else can see them. When the ghosts find out that Pincus can see and hear them, they come flocking around, hoping he can help them settle their affairs on earth so they can have peace. Pincus is not willing to help. He doesn't like people and likes ghosts even less. One ghost in particular, Frank Herlihy (played by Greg Kinnear of “The Matador”) haunts Pincus relentlessly until Pincus agrees to do the ghost's bidding. Frank wants Bertram Pincus to break up his widow's impending marriage to Richard (Billy Campbell of “Gods and Generals”). Frank thinks Richard is a gold-digger, but he isn't. Richard is more of an annoying, self-centered do-gooder, while Frank was a self-centered, workaholic philanderer.
When Bertram Pincus begins to get involved with Frank's widow, Gwen (Téa Leoni of “Deep Impact”) he falls in love with her, which is not easy for a guy who hates people. He is in very unfamiliar territory. Frank sabotages the love affair because Bertram is a worse match for Gwen than Richard was. Bertram finds himself battling long odds trying to win the hand of Gwen. He has to remake himself into a person worthy of her love and worthy of Frank's respect. He is also not handsome. He has a long way to go, but he undertakes the journey, dodging ghosts all the way. In this respect, the romantic comedy element in the film is somewhat reminiscent of “Groundhog Day.” I have not cared for Téa Leoni's past performances, but she is perfect in this role. I don't remember seeing Ricky Gervais in anything before, but he carries this film on his back. Greg Kinnear is solid as always and there are some very good supporting performances as well. This is a good romantic comedy, and that is a genre that often gets messed up. Here, the old formula comes out just right. This film rates a B.
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