What happens when a dentist who hates people ends up seeing the dead? They pester him and chase him around New York City trying to bring closure to their lives, according to the plot of Ghost Town. The movie begins with Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), a smooth-talking adulterer, avoiding one very bizarre death to immediately be forced into another. In the meantime, an antisocial dentist named Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais), dies under anesthetic for a routine procedure, but was brought back to life without his knowledge. When he recovers from the operation, he starts seeing ghosts who are stunned that anyone can see them.
These ghosts all want Pincus to do something for them so that they can move on. They annoy him and beg for his help until Frank finally convinces Pincus to help him stop his widow, Gwen (Téa Leoni), from marrying another man. In return, Frank is to get the ghosts to leave Pincus alone.
In a rather unoriginal plotline, Pincus grudgingly agrees to help Frank simply so that he will be left alone. However, as most comedic stories would have it, Pincus falls in love with Gwen. And of course, everything falls apart just when Gwen starts to realize her feelings for him. They have the common trials and tribulations that accompany a romance including doubts, accusations, and tears.
The only unusual thing is that Pincus is constantly trying to ignore the ghosts, which provides for the awkward situations that make Gwen question Pincus’ sincerity.
The best part of the movie, by far, is the comedic timing. Gervais seems to be a master of awkward silence and making uncomfortable situations funny but not embarrassing. Ghost Town did not have to stoop to stupidity or slapstick comedy to make its audiences laugh-the dramatic irony, wit, and discomfort of Pincus are entertaining enough.
In addition, Kinnear adds just the necessary touch of obnoxiousness to make his pestering of Pincus is amusing and believable for his character. This is refreshing in a time when so many comedies resort to crudeness and slapstick to make their audiences laugh instead of truly being funny.
Another aspect that makes the movie more interesting is the certain quirky elements that were introduced in scenes to make them more unique and amusing. For instance, when the ghosts realize that Pincus can see them, they all start chasing him down the street in a huge mob while a violinist plays the chase music from under a bridge in the park. There is no purpose for the violinist except to make the scene a little more nonsensical.
Yet, instead of making the movie cliché or bizarre, the odd little quirks succeed in making the movie more adorable.
Although Ghost Town is not a very innovative storyline, it has its eccentricities and is overall a funny movie. Gervais and Kinnear are both amusing, albeit in different ways. Gervais is hilariously awkward, while Kinnear is pesky and a smart aleck. The combination creates a predictable, yet successfully entertaining comedy.