‘Ghost Town’ haunts theaters with laughs

David Koepp’s Ghost Town takes dry, British wit and accompanies it with sick humor. Though the film deals with dark topics, important life questions and heavy subjects, it keeps the audience laughing through them. A strong plot is buoyed by a stellar cast that makes the comedy tick.

Ghost Town revolves around Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais, the BBC version of The Office), a callous dentist who prefers isolation to healthy interaction. He is rude to his co-workers, selfish in every respect and loves his job because he can silence his patients by stuffing instruments into their mouths. When Pincus dies for seven minutes during a routine surgery and is revived, he discovers he can see dead people – who won’t leave him alone until he helps them with their unfinished business. The most persistent is Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear, Little Miss Sunshine), who wants Pincus to stop the imminent marriage of his widow, Gwen (Téa Leoni, Spanglish, Deep Impact), to a human rights lawyer she seems to love.

After being pestered beyond belief by Herlihy – and seeing Gwen’s beauty – Pincus decides to help. He proposes presenting Gwen with an alternative to her current fiancé: himself. This plan seems doomed to fail since Pincus has been nothing but a cold-hearted jerk towards her. However, without Herlihy’s interference, Pincus and Gwen find similarities in themselves they can’t find anywhere else.

Gervais is perfect as an insensitive jerk – his days on The Office certainly are reflected by the awkward jokes and hilarious antics. I cannot think of anyone better in this role and it certainly helps that he’s British. Kinnear inhabits his usual role – another neurotic character, this time of the self-centered variety – delivering his lines with the passion of a man selling something and never letting up. Leoni has her usual soft eyes to match a soft soul with a hard outer layer. All together, this film is a mash-up of incredible talent and comedic timing that keeps the laughs coming.

The soundtrack that accompanies this film is also phenomenal. Along with the usual suspects of Citizen Cope’s “Sideways” there are amazingly unexpected songs, such as The Beatles’ “I’m Looking Through You” and Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance.” These songs, as well as some from Dusty Wright, Brendan Benson, Mason Jennings, Franz Joseph Haydn, Wilco, John Mayer, Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington as well as original music by Geoff Zanelli keep a stunning backdrop for the film.

The film’s success lies in its ability to partially hide serious topics through its humor, but does not allow the humor to completely obscure them. The film is self-reflective as a whole and muses on the world and people in general. Its main message is Einstein’s “only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile,” managing to make the would-be cliché revelation hilarious. I absolutely loved this movie and I can’t wait to see it again.

Ghost Town is not an easy film, despite being a comedy. It does not take the easy way out and somehow finishes everything in a way that only great films do. It explores every possibility, raises questions and lets the audience do with them what they will. Ghost Town leads the members of the audience on a hilarious ride through their own doubts and beliefs and allows them to arrive at their own conclusions.