Sunday, 5 December 2010

Romance, the dead, and dental humour

The ghosts that haunt Ricky Gervais' character in Ghost Town are the nice sort that only want you to do odd jobs for them. This is death as comedy, where someone getting hit by a bus is funny because of the cheerful music. And the good news is that it is funny - probably the first thing you'd expect from a comedy. It's not even particularly dark; it's all the gloss you'd expect from a Hollywood romantic comedy, but with ghosts. Gervais plays Dr Bertram Pincus, a misanthropic dentist with bowel problems. After dying 'for a bit' during a colonoscopy he begins to be pestered by New York's ghosts. One persistent spirit wants him to drive his ex-wife away from her new fiancé. What follows is a fairly standard romantic comedy, where Pincus inexplicably manages to get the girl. He's constantly rude and selfish, but is able to use his skills in dentistry to convince her that, maybe, he's not so bad after all. This is about as believable as the ghosts, so it's impressive that it all holds together. Ghost Town aims at darker issues but then flinches and goes the other way, which isn't a bad thing. The casual and friendly approach to the undead is refreshing - almost relaxing in its flippancy. It says 'yeah, there's hundreds of ghosts wandering around, but don't get worked up about it'. And it turns out Ricky Gervais can be funny with someone else's script. His casting as the unlikely lead makes the whole thing more interesting. Everyone lives in very fancy New York apartments, with jobs like 'Egyptoligist' and 'human-rights lawyer'. This could be offensive if the protagonist looks like a Thunderbird puppet too. Instead, the 'fat, British, middle-aged man' looks like he's broken in to this perfect world.

There's a question of why this had to be romantic at all. Is it just the default mode for lighthearted comedy? It has ghosts. It could go anywhere. As it is, it's watchable, funny, and verging on interesting. Something to watch.


  1. So it’s like The Invention of Lying, a potentially interesting premise ruined by making it a mere subplot to the romance, when it should be the other way around.

  2. I like your comment about expecting comedies to be funny - I've almost stopped expecting that!

    This was a funny movie though - good review.

  3. Now I want to see this movie--thanks.

    I just rewatched "Truly Madly Deeply, which has a kind of flippant approach to ghosts too. (They like to watch old movies and can recite the lines of "Brief Encounter.")
    Have you seen it?

    It's a favorite of mine but this time round it occurred to me it would be stronger, or more interesting anyway, if it didn't slip into default mode: a happy ending that resolves grief with a (slightly unbelievable) new romance.
    Ah, well.

  4. I haven't seen Ghost Town. I'll check out a trailor on YouTube. I haven't seen Greg Kinnear in a movie in some time. Thanks.
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