(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Ghost Town
Where You Can Stream It: Amazon Prime
The Pitch: After a near-death experience during a routine colonoscopy, people-hating dentist Bertrum Pincus (Ricky Gervais) is shocked to discover that he is suddenly able to talk to the dead. Constantly cornered by unhappy spirits who want him to help resolve their earthly problems, the misanthropic Pincus is driven to distraction. Eventually talked into helping the dearly departed Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), Pincus attempts to talk to Frank’s widow, Gwen (Téa Leoni)
Why It’s Essential Viewing: David Koepp is best known for writing blockbusters hits like Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible, Spider-Man and War of the Worlds. Comedian Ricky Gervais is known for being smarmy, snarky, and generally pompous. But when these two come together in Ghost Town, the result is a charming romantic comedy that somehow turns Ricky Gervais into an endearing leading man when all is said and done.
There have been a variety of romances featuring ghosts over the years, but none have brought such a refreshing take on the afterlife as Ghost Town. David Koepp, along with writer John Kamps, gives us a movie that not only delivers a heartfelt new approach to the idea of ghosts having unfinished business, but a funny romance between two unlikely neighbors, and they don’t even have the typical cool big city jobs that all romantic comedies seem to have.
It’s a little hard to imagine that there would be any chemistry between him and Téa Leoni, but the actress somehow makes it work, and Gervais has mastered the art of being simultaneously awkward and flirty, which ends up making him rather likeable. Making things even more unique and interesting is the fact that one of the ghosts that Ricky Gervais’ character is talking to is Téa Leoni‘s former flame, played by Greg Kinnear, and the dynamic between them makes for some great comedy.
Initially, Ricky Gervais isn’t doing anything more than what he normally does. He’s stand-offish, anti-social, and generally bothered by everyone around him. That makes him the worst person to have a near-death experience that suddenly gives him the ability to see and talk to ghosts, and they just won’t leave him alone. But as the movie goes in, that cold, harsh exterior starts to melt away and Gervais slowly becomes a charming presence.
This is one of those movies that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by, and it may even pull at your heartstrings in addition to tickling your funny bone. Few fantasy romance premises like this have worked so well, and it’s kind of incredible how firmly this one sticks the landing, right down to the movie’s clever final line.
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