Ricky Gervais has forged one hell of a successful career on television. The Office, the show he created with Stephen Merchant has become one of the most successful television programmes of all time, and has made Gervais a household name. Over the last few years, Gervais has taken on a few film roles, always in support roles. Ghost Town marks his first role as a leading man. The transition from television to film has been an easy change for some actors. But for Gervais, it’s somewhat of a gamble, since he is working off somebody else’s script. Is it a successful transition?
Bertram Pincus is a dentist with a big problem. He hates people. He likes his job because it means that he doesn’t have to talk to anyone. His patients’ mouths are packed with cotton wool, making it impossible for them to talk to him. After a colonoscopy that left Pincus dead for seven minutes, the dentist finds himself with an unusual ability. He can see and communicate with dead people. It’s something that irritates Pincus incredibly. The dead need favours and only Pincus can help. One dead guy, Frank Herlihy has a proposal for Pincus. Stop his widow, Gwen form marrying her new fiancé and the dead will leave him be. But as Pincus strives to break Gwen’s relationship up, he finds a new set of problems. The biggest problem being his growing love for Gwen.
Ghost Town is written and directed by David Koepp, a writer who has written successful films such as Jurassic Park, Spider-Man and... um... Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Despite the last film in the list, Koepp has a pretty solid track record. So it’s easy to see why Gervais took the role of Pincus as his first leading role. However, you do feel throughout the film that Gervais had a great deal of input in the Pincus role. He is very comfortable in the role, and having played some very unsavoury characters in the past, he plays Pincus convincingly.
The film isn’t exactly laugh-out-loud. For the first fifteen or twenty minutes, I found myself wondering if Ghost Town was going to be a complete flop. However, once the story takes off, the film finds it’s feet. And thankfully, despite not being one of the best comedies I’ve ever seen, it is a very entertaining film. Playing opposite Gervais are Tia Leoni and Greg Kinnear. While they’re there to support Gervais, they do bring credibility to the film. Gervais didn’t necessarily need actors used to film to support him, but they never overshadow him in the comedy stakes and help ground the film.
Gervais makes for an odd leading man. He’s the first to admit he doesn’t have movie-idol looks. In fact, some of the comedy comes from Gervais’ short, pudgy frame. But the film doesn’t resort to easy physical comedy and instead relies on more subtle jokes. And it’s here that I think Gervais’ input was substantial. It’s a very entertaining film, and provides a good start to Gervais’ career as a film actor, in lead roles. Hopefully Gervais moves into writing as well as staring in films, and then the real test will begin.