Ghost Town
Written and directed by David Koepp

Starring Ricky Gervais, Tea Leoni, Greg Kinnear


Ghost Town

Despite its title, "Ghost Town" is neither a zombie movie nor a documentary on former boom towns, now deserted. It's a very present-day fable of a man who comes back from a near-death experience from too much anesthetic at his colonoscopy and now can see people who still had issues at their own moment of death.

In particular he can't seem to get away from Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), a former stockbroker who was cheating on his wife at the time he died. Now Frank won't go away until his own issues have been resolved by a living person. That living person is Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais), a New York dentist who hates interacting with other people - any other people. He lives alone, is rude to people who would like to make neighborly conversation, and enjoys dentistry only to the extent that he can put cotton rolls into patients' mouths to stop their chatter.

He lives in an apartment house where Frank's widow Gwen (Téa Leoni) also lives. Frank wants Bertram to keep her from marrying a new man, a human-rights attorney whom he says is just after the money she inherited from Frank.

If you haven't already guessed, the film is the story of how Bertram is humanized by his unwanted assignment, and of how Gwen also finds what she wants. In the meantime, Bertram must also find ways to help a crowd of other dead people find their ways out of whatever is keeping them from enjoying, if that's not the best word, their own deaths.

The film was directed and co-written by David Koepp, the writer of "Spider Man" and "Jurassic Park," among many other hits. He has a very good cast - particularly Téa Leoni - who make what might have been a sloppy tear-jerker into a very light comedy, and Ricky Gervais, freed from his work at "The Office," is exactly the right choice, first for his obnoxious qualities and then for making the believable switch into a lovely human being, or at least a decent one.

In the middle of a stream of really bad releases from Hollywood, "Ghost Town" stands out as a lovely exception.