This Town Is Nothing Like a Ghost Town
First of all, New York City is not really a town. When Gene Kelly set his movie On The Town
there, it was obviously a figure of speech. Nor is it particularly full of ghosts. One might argue that the site of the former World Trade Center is pretty haunting but it does not take a lot of imagination to guess why most movies choose to not exploit that fact.
One might argue that there is considerable potential for a movie about old-fashioned ghosts in a city as new-fashioned as Nueva York. But, alas, such a movie is not the recent Ricky Gervais flick Ghost Town
. Indeed, I found Ghost Town
considerably disappointing because after all I’ve read
about Ghost Town
being like one of those old-fashioned screwball comedies that we all know and love, I found it more than a little shocking to see how unfunny the movie actually was. (And it did not help that I have actually seen a lot of old-fashioned screwball comedies recently
Part of the problem is that Ricky Gervais is not a conventional comic lead. He tends to specialize in the type of annoying characters -- like his “boss from Hell” character in The Office
-- that are funny to watch but who would be annoying as heck to see as a main character. (As you might guess, my main interest in The Office
has nothing to do with the Ricky Gervais character
.) Gervais tends to work best in a situation where he has a good script and Ghost Town
, alas, does not have a good script. Indeed, a lot of the dialogue here is so awful that Grant and Hepburn could not pull it off.
The story begins when Gervais’s character Dr. Bertram Pincus leaves his dentist’s office to prepare for an upcoming colon exam. As one might guess, the fact that this is a modern movie means that there is considerable attention devoted to the “comic” aspect of such preparations. For some reason, it never occurs to the screenplay writer that there are only so many jokes one can tell about evacuating one’s bowels and that a smart comedy generally finds it best to avoid the subject altogether. But, alas, that is only the case with old-fashioned comedies -- and this is not an old-fashioned comedy.
Along the way, the movie sees fit to illustrate that Pincus is a bit of a jerk -- the type of person who avoids one co-worker’s birthday party, steals taxi cabs, closes the elevator door in the face of someone with loaded packages, etc. Although Pincus’s patients talk to him a lot, he does not encourage them to and indeed, he has as little contact with his fellow man as possible.
The morning of his colon exam, he has an argument with the female surgeon in charge of his case about the merits of his taking a general aesthetic while the procedure takes place. This argument never really rings true. When I underwent a similar procedure last year, the doctor did not hesitate to have me knocked out while the exam took place and given everything that happens during such a procedure, it seems silly to imagine any surgeon not doing so. But this is Movieworld which means we must have one of those wacky pseudo-arguments that would never occur in the real world. An argument that would be more tolerable if it was entertaining but no, it is not.
When Gervais awakes from his procedure, he starts seeing dead people. Dead people who are so happy to be finally noticed by a member of the living that they can’t resist flocking around him like groupies surrounding a rock star. Chief among the ghost groupies is a tuxedo-clad character played by Greg Kinnear. Even though Kinnear was killed while making a call to his real estate agent about an apartment for his mistress, he is still obsessed with his widow (played by Téa Leoni) and he browbeats Pincus into helping him break up her impending marriage to a human rights lawyer. Pincus discovers the woman in question is one of his neighbors, he gets involved with her himself, and things allegedly get interesting.
It would be nice to pretend that this movie is a lot more entertaining than it actually is, but it is not. Ms. Leoni has more chemistry with her dog than she does with Mr. Gervais and the movie’s supporting characters -- apart from Kinnear’s -- are never fleshed out enough to be anything more than stick figures designed to provide either comic relief or blatant moralizing. It is nice that the movie encourages us to help our fellow human beings, but you have to wade through a lot of really bad dialogue to get to that point and anyway, it is not really about that. Indeed, if the filmmakers had concentrated more on Pincus’s fellow humans -- the way old-fashioned movies often do -- instead of regarding them for the most part as shallow-minded background characters, Ghost Town
might have been a better movie. However, they do not so it is not.
The movie did make me have increased respect for As Good as It Gets
, which also involved a self-absorbed individual ultimately redeemed by the love of a good woman. But then that movie was actually funny.
Labels: Greg Kinnear, Nueva York, Películas de Halloween II, Películas Nuevas II, Ricky Gervais, Téa Leoni, Un Fantasma Fastidioso