Do you know many people perfectly matched to their job? With Dr. Bertran Pincus, dental work fits his personality like a drill in a cavity. Without the Novocaine. For a misanthropic British crown maker, it’s always a gleeful moment when you can stick cotton in a person’s mouth anytime they try to start a conversation. Oh, the majesty of a good fluoride rinse. Be a dentist, indeed.
As if living people were not enough of a hassle, Pincus (British comedian Ricky Gervais) soon gains a new set of non-friends. Non-breathing non-friends. After temporarily dying on a surgical table, he sees dead people, flocking to him and asking for favors. Among them is a recently deceased philanderer (Greg Kinnear) who wants Pincus to drive away the new fiance of his widow (Tea Leoni), an archaeologist. With whom our lonely dentist, over decaying Egyptian dental remains, shortly falls in love. Because, darn it, that’s how zany Hollywood can be.
If that sounds like the plot of Ghost turned into a high-concept comedy, well, that’s probably exactly how Ghost Town was pitched. The movie, particularly Gervais, isn’t a dull pain. But what kills Ghost Town is the nagging feeling that no one involved ever wanted it to be anything more than blah. It shoots for mediocrity and hits somewhere in the vicinity.
Gervais is one of a number of British comedians looking to take their act to the movies stateside. This is his first lead in an American film, and it’s not quite a smooth transition for the star of the British version of The Office. For a performer known for obnoxious human creations, Gervais’ dentist here is relatively a big teddy bear waiting to be hugged. While some of that dynamic arrives intact, Ghost Town is too tame and conventional to be a proper vehicle for his talent.