Ghost Town (2008)

(On Cable TV, September 2015) Worth pondering: The good impression left by a film can often be measured solely against expectations.  For instance, I expected little of Ghost Town, so when the film managed to pull off decent sequences and amusing moments, it seemed far better than if I had gone in with high expectations.  Ghost Town remains, in many ways, a basic romantic comedy with a nebbish protagonist trying to impress a beautiful woman.  But this one happens to feature Ricky Gervais as a protagonist who suffers a near-death medical experience that leaves him able to see ghosts in Manhattan.  The supernatural element is brought in gently and is always presented wondrously: there isn’t a hint of darkness in the film which, considering that is deals rather heavily in death, is something to admire.  Gervais makes for a capable unconventional hero, with anti-social nature believably progressing into something approaching decency by the end of the film.  He is ably supported by Greg Kinnear as the ghost of a philanderer trying to meddle in his widow’s affairs.  Complications obviously ensue.  Fortunately, Ghost Town has an amiable atmosphere, enlivened by a couple of strong sequences.  There’s a hilarious hospital scene in which our protagonist discovers his temporary death, for instance; a rapid-fire exploration of the nature of ghosts hanging around Manhattan; and a poignant sequence in which our protagonist gets to help ghosts settle their affairs with the living.  It doesn’t make for a film for the ages, but it makes Ghost Town quite a bit better than its closest comparisons.  It exceeds expectations, and often enough that’s exactly sufficient to leave audiences with a satisfied smile on their faces.

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