Reel Deal: Ghost Town elevated by casting of Ricky Gervais

In most romantic comedies featuring a guy who repels women, casting directors employ handsome, chiseled leading men, put them in a bad wig or make them wear glasses and expect the audience to believe they still have a problem attracting members of the opposite sex.

Thankfully when casting for "Ghost Town," writer-director David Koepp went with someone unconventional.

British actor Ricky Gervais looks like the average man you see on the street everyday. He is a bit pudgy, a little balding and somewhat sad looking, which most women do not want to see when escaping to Hollywood movies for eye candy.

But those who have seen him in the original BBC version of "The Office" or on the HBO series "Extras" are well aware of his charms. Despite that description I provided in the above paragraph, he has a wicked sense of humor and isn¹t afraid to make fun of himself, which makes him crush-worthy in my book.

Gervais plays Bertram Pincus, a sullen and sarcastic dentist who uses the appliances of his trade to silence chatty patients who are bothering him. In fact, it seems like everyone who breathes bothers him, which makes it amusing when he starts to see the deceased. (The movie tagline is; He sees dead peopleŠand they annoy him.)

His ability begins after he dies for seven minutes during a routine colonoscopy. This allows him to unknowingly converse with the dead, who are thrilled to have attention.

They follow him all over Manhattan making requests to help them find closure with friends and relatives so they can pass over to the other side. Not being the helping hand sort, he ignores them until he runs into (or through) Frank (Greg Kinnear), a philandering ghost with a guilty conscience.

He wants Bertram’s help in breaking up the engagement of his archaeologist widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) to the dull human rights lawyer Richard (Billy Campbell). In exchange for being a relationship wedge, Frank promises to keep the other ghosts away.

The courtship isn’t smooth sailing, as Gwen remembers all the mean things Bertram has done while living in the same apartment complex, such as never saying hello, stealing her taxi, or closing the elevator doors in her face when she¹s carrying heavy objects.

It also doesn’t help that disaster occurs whenever he opens his mouth. His awkwardness and saying the wrong things makes his character easily identifiable (trust me), but you end up rooting for him to get the girl despite the ‘not thinking before speaking’ thing.

Koepp lets the characters develop a relationship that is believable, but when "Ghost Town" tries to stray into the more dramatic or tender moments of the story, it feels a bit forced and out of place.

Overall, "Ghost Town" is a very charming movie, but it¹s the casting of Gervais that elevates it above the more recent romantic comedies. He doesn’t make the audience jealous because of his looks, but he makes it entirely believable when the lead female gives him a chance.

I gave this film a B-.

Dedra Cordle is a Messenger staff writer.

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