Sep 242008
Authors: Marjorie Hamburger

David Koepp, famous screenwriter of many Spielberg films, admirably directs the comedic ghost story “Ghost Town,” a takeoff of several earlier works including the 1937 film “Topper” featuring Cary Grant.

“Ghost Town” has a comedic and timeless quality that is rare in today’s Hollywood flicks. It stands apart from the modern comedies of our generation that tend to spout dim, perverse jokes while lowering the viewer’s IQ.

In the film, Ricky Gervais plays the role of Bertram Pincus, a dentist from London who now lives in Manhattan. Pincus is a recluse. He is painfully anti-social, and goes to great lengths to avoid human contact. He never greets people in hallways, never holds the elevator door open and never ever attends social gatherings. Being a dentist is the ideal job for Pincus because he is easily able to shut people up by stuffing things in their mouths. When stuffing plaster in a patient’s mouth, he says, “You’re resting your jaw, I’m resting my ears, and we’re all winners.”

Pincus seems quite content with his monotonous, undisturbed existence, until something unexpected happens. During a routine colonoscopy, he dies. But he is only dead for a little under seven minutes. After being revived, Pincus discovers he has the ability to see dead people. I’m not talking about “The Sixth Sense” bloody, sinister dead people. Just regular looking people walking the streets of New York like anyone else. Once the ghosts discover that Pincus can see them, they try and get him to help solve their individual problems of why they can’t “pass over” into the next world.

The most persistent ghost is Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), who believes he hasn’t “crossed over” because he has to stop his widowed wife, Gwen (Téa Leoni), from getting remarried. It just so happens that Gwen lives in the same apartment complex as Pincus, and has been the victim of his impolite behavior for some time. Frank asks Pincus to help steer Gwen away from her fiancé, and naturally Pincus falls for her in the process.

The exceptionally unique personalities of each character shine through in “Ghost Town.” Pincus always speaks his mind, even if his thoughts are inappropriate for the situation. With his witty lines and prominent British accent, he never fails to capture the audience’s favor and attention. This clever dialogue is one of the film’s finest features.

The roles of Frank and Gwen also stand out as both unique and sincere. Frank, though deceased, has not yet come to terms with his wife’s re-engagement. His suave personality invites a reluctant fondness despite his unfaithfulness while alive. Gwen, Frank’s widow, appears to have coped quite well with Frank’s death by moving on and getting engaged to a human-rights lawyer. The fiancé’s occupation makes it difficult for Frank to find any flaws in him, although he tries desperately to do so. On the surface Gwen appears strong, yet it becomes clear that she has not let go of Frank’s infidelity and their unfinished relationship.

Not many movies these days are capable of having the audience give a round of applause at the finale, but this one triumphs. With the sharp dialogue and the noteworthy personalities, “Ghost Town” succeeds as a worthy film for its genre.

Staff writer Marjorie Hamburger can be reached at

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