Ghost Town (UK - DVD R2)
Our Scott McKenzie checks out comic Ricky Gervais' first headline movie...
Ricky Gervais plays Bertram Pincus, a British dentist living in New York who tries to get through each day with as little social contact with other people as possible. When a complication during an operation results in him being technically dead for seven minutes, he wakes up to discover that he can see dead people. Led by the recently deceased Greg Kinnear, they’re all intent on Pincus helping them out with the unfinished business from their previous lives.
If the stories are to be believed, then Ricky Gervais has been offered every comedy screenplay under the sun and he’s made a point of turning them all down because he wants to maintain some level of artistic credibility. That makes sense—after all, he made The Office and Extras his way without interference—but now that he’s moving into headline starring roles, why choose such a generic movie to do that with?
Ricky Gervais tends to draw his comedy from awkward social situations, the same way Larry David does in Curb Your Enthusiasm, and it’s no coincidence that a few years ago Ricky made a point of using his new-found fame to gain an audience with David, which was recorded for British TV. I thought the funniest moments in Ghost Town had their roots in this area and were totally unrelated to ghostly goings-on. This may be a David Koepp screenplay, but the confrontations between Pincus and the hospital staff are pure Gervais. He also manages to slip in a few social comments into the mix as well.
The main problem I have with Ghost Town is the apparent lack of ambition. The movie is filmed like a sitcom and the way the story begins and ends makes it feel like you’re watching the pilot episode of Curb Your Sixth Sense. Even the special effects of ghosts passing through people and inanimate objects look very unimpressive, although the rather silly device of the living sneezing when they walk through ghosts actually works quite well. The central performance is exactly what you might expect from Gervais, but the supporting roles from Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear are nothing to write home about.
The character of Pincus is quite close in nature to Melvin in As Good As It Gets and we all know from the beginning that his outlook on life is going to change by the time the end credits roll. Unfortunately it takes quite a long time to get there and there aren’t as many laughs to be had as you’d hope to get from Britain’s favourite comedian. I really wanted to like Ghost Town, but I just thought there wasn’t enough to set it apart from so many other high-concept comedies.
Ghost Town is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, but there’s not too much to impress the viewer in these stakes. Since the movie itself is essentially a sitcom it’s filmed as such, without any real flair and even the ghostly effects lack any details that might look good on a big TV screen. Come on, give us a little puff of smoke here and there—we’re supposed to be watching ghosts! The picture is a little fuzzy and lacks detail, especially in shots with a lot going on in the background. If you like the movie, there’s nothing here to put you off the movie but this is definitely not a disc that amaze your eyeballs.
The same goes for the audio quality as well. While the track is supposedly presented in Dolby 5.1, I challenge anyone to find rewarding details in the surround channels. The movie is heavy on dialogue and low on sound effects so as long as you can hear what everyone’s saying to each other, there’s nothing to complain about. The Brazil-like music is very pleasant though and is undoubtedly the highlight in a rather unimpressive audio track.
This disc opens with trailers for Hotel For Dogs, Without A Paddle: Nature’s Calling and JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. The main extra feature is a commentary with David Koepp and Ricky Gervais, which is as entertaining as you might expect from Gervais, who always has plenty to say. However, I can’t help thinking that there was a missed opportunity to record a commentary with Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington, his podcasting partners in crime.
After that, the special features get a little less special. We get a standard making-of featurette with clips from the movie, behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew telling us how great everyone was. ‘Ghostly Effects’ is a couple of minutes of green screen and CGI shots showing how the ghost effects were edited together and ‘Some People Can Do It’ is a blooper reel. That’s your lot I’m afraid.
There are laughs to be had in Ghost Town, but there are few laugh-out-loud moments and I expect Ricky Gervais to go on to much bigger and better things after this movie. Everything about this release is pretty underwhelming, with average presentation and not much in the way of extras to keep your attention. Bottom line—if you’re a fan of Ricky Gervais, rent this movie.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 2nd March 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, Dutch, Turkish, English HoH
Extras: Commentary by David Koepp and Ricky Gervais, Making Ghost Town, Ghostly Effects, Some People Can Do It
Easter Egg: No
Director: David Koepp
Cast: Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, Tea Leoni
Length: 102 minutes
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