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David Koepp's GHOST TOWN Screens! Can Ricky Gervais Survive a Hollywood Rom-Com?

Beaks here... I thought the trailer for David Koepp's GHOST TOWN was pleasant enough, but "pleasant" isn't exactly what I expect or want from Ricky Gervais - at least, not yet. (Basically, I want THIS SIDE OF THE TRUTH, and I want it now.) But if the studios are hellbent on selling the acerbic comedian to a wider American audience, I suppose it makes sense to start him off as a W.C. Fields-ish misanthrope who learns a thing or two about romance from the affable ghost of Greg Kinnear. Americans just love cuddly assholes. Do with that sentence what you will. Does Gervais work in a formula romantic comedy? Are Kristen Wiig's considerable talents squandered? Can Koepp (as writer-director) smoothly transition from the thriller genre? Let's see what our man in Baltimore has to say...
Ghost Town The film opens with Greg Kinnear, who is on his cell phone clearly lying to his wife (Tea Leoni) about looking at apartments, while yelling at his realtor for telling his wife about the secret love nest he was planning, he nearly dodges a falling air conditioner....only to be flattened by a bus. When his ghost wanders back in frame, you immediately know that this is going be be a somewhat "quirky" film. It doesn't open until mid September (according to the suit at the screening), but my girlfriend's dad got free passes for a screening here in Baltimore at the super fancy Landmark Theaters downtown, and he gave them to us. Win. Co-written by David Koepp with John Kamps and directed by Koepp, this was a surprising little romantic comedy. I got offered a free pass by a friend who donates to the local film festival, and managed to go into the theater without hearing/seeing/reading anything about the film in advance. What I got was a not entirely fresh, but definitely interesting, take on the Ghost story (as in Swayze). Instead of centering on the dead, our story focuses more on the living (a recurring theme in the film). Ricky Gervais plays a bitterly acerbic English-born dentist who suddenly develops a "Sixth Sense". However, he finds the dead even more annoying than the living. Gervais has a LOT of room to stretch out in this spiky-yet-occasionally-vulnerable character and I found myself vacillating between thinking he was a loathsome prick or wanting to tell him shit was going to work out, laughing the whole time. The rest of the cast isn't quite as commanding, but they hold their own more than fine and really make this movie work. Tea Leoni is good, reminding me of a more awkward and endearing Mad About You era Helen Hunt. Kinnear does a variation of his character from Little Miss Sunshine (self centered type-A jerk) with a chauvinist twist. This is not a criticism. In fact, I feel like every actor was pretty perfectly suited to the part, even the supporting cast (Kristen Wiig in particular does a version of her Knocked Up character that isn't exactly anything new from her, but her scenes with Gervais are absolutely priceless). I won't get into plot, because it's relatively simple and most of you will have it figured out in the first 5 or 10 minutes. What makes this film interesting is the way they get there. There are a couple of good twists and changes to the rom-com formula here that give the film a distinct personality (and advantage) that you don't expect from a movie like this. I especially liked their take on ghost mythology. What REALY sold me on this movie, and pretty early in, was the cast. This is a tight group, and every character interaction is different, distinct, and funny for different reasons. It's clear that a lot of thought went into putting this group together in these parts, and it pays off. I thought the pacing and flow of the film was perfect, even down to when and how fast everyone gets their Movie Epiphany™ moment. It never gets too saccharine or too predictable or too heavy handed with the "message", though one elevator scene with Gervais and Leoni gets damn close. Fortunately, Leoni has the chops to pull it off and it ends up working. Overall, this was one of the better rom-coms I've seen in a good long while. Certainly the funniest, to the point that we should consider putting into into a com-rom category. The laughs come first in this flick, but the heart the cast injects keeps it moving. Have no fear gents, this is one of those rare and beautiful creatures you don't often see: the genuinely funny and entertaining Date Movie. -- -m

Well, that's encouraging. GHOST TOWN is currently slated for release on September 19th, so this was probably a very-close-to-finished cut. Looking forward to checking this one out for myself.

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 4, 2008, 2:30 p.m. CST


    by Jugdish

    GOtta try

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 2:31 p.m. CST

    Greg Kinnear

    by fiester

    Yuck. Go back to "Talk Soup" no no-talent empty suit.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 2:31 p.m. CST

    Can someone please explain to me Greg Kinnear?

    by Jugdish

    Why is he considered a movie star? the guy has the same expression on his face for every film..

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 2:33 p.m. CST


    by Jackie Boy

    That's all I can think, besides the positive review. Can't help it.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 2:33 p.m. CST


    by Jackie Boy

    That's all I can think, besides the positive review. Can't help it.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 2:39 p.m. CST

    Kinnear can be excellent

    by palimpsest

    see THE MATADOR and AUTO FOCUS, for example. He's great in both. I'm not sold on this movie, though that might be down to Gervais, who I don't rate (mind you, as a Brit I've seen him doing the same act for a decade and maybe it's wearing a little thin).

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 2:41 p.m. CST


    by Grando

    I never call Plant, but there is definitely a foliage like stench around here.....

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 2:43 p.m. CST

    I hate the Landmark in Baltimore

    by hegele

    it feels like an office complex. Go to The Charles Theater!! (representing where i work)

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 2:50 p.m. CST

    Does David Koepp actually exist...

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    ...or is he just an Alan Smithee-style psuedonym slapped on a screenplay that's just a Frankenstein patchwork of a dozen previous drafts?

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 2:54 p.m. CST

    Can someone please explain to me Ricky Gervais?

    by DerLanghaarige

    The Office & Extras are unfunny one note songs, that have been sung a million times before. His Simpsons episode was one of the reasons why the newer episodes of this show have such a bad reputation. I never saw him saying or doing something special (and this counts the Alias episode, in which he played a terrorist who wanted to revenge his brother) but people talk about him, like he re-invented comedy.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 3:01 p.m. CST

    Looks funny enough.

    by TheNoirPirate

    The review's mentioning of Ricky Gervais and Kristen Wiig doing scenes together turns me way on.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 3:06 p.m. CST

    Looks like complete SHIT

    by ShiftyEyedDog2

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 3:08 p.m. CST

    Ghost Whisperer: The Movie

    by Giario

    'Rom-com' = Shittest abbreviation of all time. Gervais' perpetually incredulous, last sane & intelligent man on Earth, routine is beyond tired. People who defend Gervais are generally the unfunniest people around. He's a comedian for people who don't know about comedy. Get well soon Morgan Freeman.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 3:08 p.m. CST

    Gervais > Kinnear (to the Nth degree).

    by Cletus Van Damme

    Memorize. Pop quiz possible.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 3:22 p.m. CST

    Whatever happened..

    by BartholomewNeff

    To Harry's Ghost Town?

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 3:25 p.m. CST

    "the affable ghost of Greg Kinnear"

    by newc0253

    does Kinnear play a ghost or are we just making cracks about his acting career?

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 3:31 p.m. CST

    Can someone please explain to me Seth Rogan?

    by BMacSmith

    just kidding, he;s kinda funny.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 3:35 p.m. CST

    Thank Jesus H. Chrysler I'm single right now...

    by Kid Z

    ...and won't be dragged to see this estrogen-soaked shite!

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 3:41 p.m. CST

    Kinnear is actually pretty good...

    by Ninja Nerd

    Besides Auto Focus...very tough role to play...and The Matador, he was in As Good As It Gets. Yeah, that was a Jack Nicholson vehicle, but without Kinnear, that movie wouldn't have worked as well. Dear God didn't suck, for that matter. And Little Miss Sunshine was worth the price of a ticket as well. Again, the rest of the cast wouldn't have worked as well without Kinnear's driven semi-loser character. Even his bit in the otherwise forgettable Mystery Men was fun. I like this guy. Don't know that this new movie sounds that compelling, but I might catch a matinee.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 4:02 p.m. CST

    suspicions of Plantiness

    by Cedar_Room

    refuses to divulge plot points or give away any spoilers - check <p> seems is going to criticise things before ending the review saying everything was, in fact, utterly fantastic - check <p> Now I'm a big Gervais fan and will happily defend his work against the haters - but this one was not written by him, and generally that means the work will be less than exemplary. The trailer made the film look like shit - I genuinely hope it isn't, but this plant does nothing to stop me fearing the worst. PLANT.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 4:06 p.m. CST

    Kinnear will always have a free pass from me

    by INWOsuxRED

    for his body of work on Talk Soup.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 4:08 p.m. CST

    Ahh, the smell of fresh cut grass....

    by Iron Giant

    A good plant would have come up with one fake story of how he got tickets, not two. Was it your girlfriend's Dad or a theater buddy? It weakens your already dubious credibility.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 4:09 p.m. CST

    You baldy manc twat.

    by Bob of the Shire

    C'mon Ricky, where is my tv show based on Karl?

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 4:20 p.m. CST

    People should boycott this film....

    by Zandunga

    ...if only as a protest for how Koepp (unsurprisingly) bungled Indy 4 instead of allowing a more talented Indy writer like Kasdan or Stoppard to take over.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 4:42 p.m. CST

    Whatever happened to Harry's Ghost Town

    by mildewproduction

    Wasn't he producing a movie called "Ghost Town"...I'm guessing it's not this one.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 4:57 p.m. CST


    by Balcony Fool

    Hi, <P> How are things inside your little box? Just wanted to send you a quick letter from the real world. Apparently you believe "The Office" to unfunny and/or "one-note?"<P> I hate to be the one to tell you, friend, but it might be time to come on out of that little box and meet some people out here. I won't argue that "The Office" is funny, as such things are relative (though you are clearly in the minority with that opinion). <P> "One-note," however, is not a subjective description, and evidently you've never actually watched the series, or you're simply trying to rise out of anyone who has.<P> Wait, you know what? I think I've changed my mind. Go back into your little box.<P>

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 5:01 p.m. CST

    Harry's Ghost Town

    by Alonzo Mosely

    Mori spilled the beans in a previous talk back about this movie... It had nothing to do with this film, it was a western horror musical, with full dance routines set in a mining ghost town... Strangely nobody was willing to spunk up the needed millions, so as far as I know it is 100% dead...

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 6:05 p.m. CST

    I hope those fuckbag Americans don't fuck Gervais up

    by TheWaqman

    I'd rather see him create another awesome TV series. He's already made 2 amazing shows. One that got its own crap American remake.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 6:17 p.m. CST

    Gervais will tell you,

    by lost.rules.

    that the American version is much better. But, hey, why would you listen to him? I'm sure you believe your opinion trumps all...

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 6:18 p.m. CST

    Beaks, come on, brother

    by BadMrWonka

    I want this movie to succeed as well, and I love Ricky Gervais, but you gotta be crazy to post such an obvious plant.<p> "Gervais has a LOT of room to stretch out in this spiky-yet-occasionally-vulnerable character"<p>"Co-written by David Koepp with John Kamps and directed by Koepp, this was a surprising little romantic comedy."<p>Ricky Gervais plays a bitterly acerbic English-born dentist who suddenly develops a "Sixth Sense".<p>unless a creative writing major that stumbled upon marketing as a career is the source of this "review", it's as clear a plant as we've ever seen.<p>if they have faith in this one (which it seems like they do), they're gonna pre-screen the hell out of it in a couple weeks. I think we can wait til then, yeah?

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 6:21 p.m. CST


    by Alonzo Mosely

    As executive producer of the American Office, it would have been financial suicide to do anything but praise it to the high heavens. He wants Larry David like money if it lasts long enough to syndicate. <p> I have no idea how Gervais truly rates the American Office, but common sense tells you he will prise it no matter what...

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 6:32 p.m. CST

    Can't wait for this

    by IForgotAbout19

    I LOVE Comantic-Romedies!

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 6:32 p.m. CST


    by IForgotAbout19

    I'll probably never see it. But Gervais is the man, and Karl Pilkington's got a head like a fucking orange.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 6:46 p.m. CST


    by TheWaqman

    Uhhmmm....yeah Gervais will keep on saying that. So what? The new Office just completely pissed on the original. It took out all the sarcasm and hilarious subtlety of the original and put in some lame guy named Dwight who was waaaaay over the top. And focused much more heavily on that lame Office-romance (a main reason why it gets so many fans).

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 7:35 p.m. CST

    Karl Pilkington has a head like a f*cking orange!

    by Cletus Van Damme

    Oh, chimpanzee that! It's Monkey News!

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 7:37 p.m. CST

    I can explain Greg Kinear

    by DeadPanWalking

    He was a broadcast journalism major who's audition tape for some low-rate early E Entertainment show got sent to the early producers of The Soup (then known as Talk Soup.) If you've seen him on the show, he was great. He basically played an exaggerated version of himself, a character that many people in Hollywood play successfully, particularly comedians. He has an effect on people in person and it translates to screen. Nice guy, kind of cool, somewhat self-depreciating, and he's just smart enough to take this and work it into a pretty good career. That's about it, he's a cool guy, people like him, and he's smart enough to channel it into acting. He's no Robert Downey JR. (or SR. for that matter) but he's engaging enough to mainstream audiences.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 7:45 p.m. CST

    by DeadPanWalking

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 7:45 p.m. CST


    by DeadPanWalking

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 7:45 p.m. CST


    by DeadPanWalking

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 8:33 p.m. CST

    does anyone really think David Koepp is a great writer?

    by Rupee88

    It might be overdoing it to call him a hack, but he certainly isn't a brilliant artist by any stretch. He is skilled at by the numbers scripts and knows the right people to get work.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 8:37 p.m. CST

    yes Kinnear is always likable

    by Rupee88

    he's not an actor who draws me a film but he isn't a negative either...he's just sort of there, in a slightly pleasant way and has enough talent to get the job done.

  • Aug. 4, 2008, 9:31 p.m. CST

    why is it

    by Bloo

    I always get Craig Kilborn and Greg Kinnear mixed up?<P>as for him going back to The Soup, NO! then we would lose the brillance that is Joel McHale, who like Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, is way better then his predecassor

  • Aug. 5, 2008, 12:56 a.m. CST

    Stuck On You

    by BrooseTheScharuk

    People who don't know what acting is think Greg Kinnear is "bland". The guy is a master of subtlety and timing, and he and Matt Damon should go down in history for the amazing work they did together (literally) in Stuck On You. Physical comedy gold. He was also the best thing about Mystery Men, as the asshole, corporate-sponsored superhero. Ever see Nurse Betty, or Auto Focus? And -- of course -- the other movies that have already been mentioned in this thread. I actually used to hate him on whatever that late night talk show was that he did. When he started acting in movies, his real talents became more apparent. He always manages to do something to surprise me. Anyone who thinks his facial expression never changes isn't really watching. I, for one, am really looking forward to Flash of Genius. Why? Because I think we've yet to see his best performance by a long shot' and you never know when that might show up. As for Ghost Town, it looks like it could be fun. I'll be interested to see what kind of chemistry he has with Gervais onscreen.

  • Aug. 5, 2008, 1:14 a.m. CST

    Mr. Beaks - "at least, not yet" - did you not see him in

    by half vader

    Night at the museum? The rot has already set in. That was about as safe and cuddly a role as you can get. <p> Oh yes, and add my incredulous post to all the others wondering how you got fooled by such a shameless and obvious plant. I like you Beaks, but step it up man! <p> Oh and I think this sounds an awful lot more like the Shelley Long type of Ghosty movie than the Swayze type.

  • Aug. 5, 2008, 3:06 a.m. CST

    Balcony Fool

    by DerLanghaarige

    In every episode of "The Office" Gervais character is saying or doing something that he thinks is right, but comes out completely wrong and in the end everybody looks at him like he's the biggest ass in the planet. This is funny once, but not every single episode! (Same with Extras, only that they expanded this joke to celebrities who portray themself as caricatures. Ben Stiller acts like an egomaniac? That's so brillant!)

  • Aug. 5, 2008, 8:13 a.m. CST

    Say this despite my Gervais hate

    by filmcoyote

    and was surprised. I liked Gervais in the first season of Extras but have never liked him on film - Night At The Museum, Stardust, hell he even managed to suck in a Chris Guest movie! But i really liked him in Ghost Town. It's a bit of a blah movie but it is funny and likeable.

  • Aug. 5, 2008, 8:33 a.m. CST

    Fucking Plant

    by Madines Sideshed

    I mean c'mon it's pretty obvious, no? Not to say the movie will be a bad one but for fuck's sake...<BR><BR>PLANT!

  • Aug. 5, 2008, 6:20 p.m. CST

    ricky wants money

    by karl_pilkingtons_head

    riiiiiiiight - thats why he turned doen 2 million pounds to do an advert after just 1 series of the office. and BTW the genius of the office is the OTHER characters in it... which Gervais (co)-wrote. also, have you noticed how ants are lazy?

  • Aug. 5, 2008, 7:53 p.m. CST


    by windycorner

    You're all arguing about a romantic comedy a record!

  • Aug. 6, 2008, 1:57 a.m. CST

    I saw a screening of this in LA months ago...

    by Jabroni

    I totally forgot about this movie. I saw it so long ago. Sounds pretty much like the version I saw out here in LA. The review is accurate. It never gets too mushy, and Gervais is excellent in this. I have been a Kinnear fan since his Talk Soup days. There are some better romantic comedies and some worse, this won't make you scream for you 12 dollars back. Entertaing for what it is.

  • March 26, 2009, 3:30 p.m. CST

    Fucking bullshit

    by Ricky_Gervais

    This film struggles to make anything out of you cunts, meanwhile Paul Fucking Blart Mall Fucking Cop is at the top of the box office for a thousand weeks. Everyone who has seen Ghost Town fucking loves it. But no, go and watch SHIT like Marley & Me for the tenth fucking time. Bunch of cunts.