Ghost Town [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (18th March 2009).
The Film

With the success of his BBC TV series' "The Office" (2001-2003) and "Extras" (2005-2007) and his popular stand-up comedy DVD's it's pretty much set in stone that Ricky Gervais is a comedic genius... so what the hell is he doing in "Ghost Town"? For the last several years we've seen Gervais in small roles in films like "Night at the Museum" (2006) and "Stardust" (2007) but not until now have seen the comedic actor in a lead role. Unfortunately for fans of the plump British funnyman, "Ghost Town" feels like a straight-to-DVD movie that only got a theatrical release because of the high-calibre casting. Screenwriter-turned-director David Koepp makes his romantic comedy debut (he's previously directed thrillers) and manages to deliver a fairly straightforward entry into the genre which manages to muster only a few chuckles.

"Ghost Town" tells the story of dentist Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais), Bertram hates crowds and being around people, he also has a sever blockage that requires he undergoes a colonoscopy. While in hospital he dies while under anesthetic for 7 minutes, upon revival he starts to see dead people as a side effect of his almost having died. One of the dead he sees is Frank (Greg Kinnear), who wants to break up his now widowed wife, Gwen (Téa Leoni) marriage and asks Bertram to help. The only problem is Bertram is annoyed by the ghosts, wants them to go away and to make matters more complicated eventually falls for Gwen.

The best kinds of romantic comedies tend to follow a fairly basic structure, they include scenes which pull at audience's heartstrings, they feature moments of hilarity based on character flaws and usually have a happy ending. Most of these things happen in "Ghost Town" (Hilarity isn't exactly achieved, but more on that later), so if you go into this film expecting the filmmakers to follow this structure then you won't be disappointed. The problem I had with this film is that I expected more from Gervais... I never thought he'd subject himself to being in a predictable and marginally funny film as this. Looking at his previous work this film seems out of character, so he must have been paid well. I don't exactly have a problem with the fact that you can dictate the entire plot within the first ten minutes, it's that all the jokes feel flat and uninspired. There's nothing clever about the set-up, the character or his situation and it feels like the filmmakers tried to pad out a 22 minute story into a 102 minute film.

Gervais plays Bertram as a cranky-people-hating-jerk, these character traits are of course used to torment (or annoy) Bertram once he's able to see the dead people, and it's difficult to sympathies with him because there's no charm whatsoever in Gervais' performance... Gervais' talents are wasted here, he's a brilliant improv comic that's given no room to stretch those wings, he stays to the script and the result is droll and boring. I can't but think how much funnier this film would have been if the producers let Gervais have a crack at the script?

There are some heartfelt moments, mainly between Gervais and Leoni, as well as a couple of funny scenes, mainly the one in which Gervais discovers he was dead for seven minutes at the hospital. The dialogue between Bertram and his doctor played by Kristen Wiig is hilarious and probably the only laugh out loud moment in the entire film, that's mainly because of the brilliance of Kristen Wiig... who needs to be in more movies.

At the very best this film is worth a rental... if there's nothing else of interest left in the video shop, otherwise just get the seasons of "The Office" or "Extras" for the funny Gervais that's sorely lacking from this film.

Video

The film is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen ratio in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and has been mastered using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The photography is fairly basic for this comedy, there's no striking lighting design and remains fairly natural. The resulting image stays faithful to that natural look and features vivid colors, beep blacks and accurate skin tones. The image is sharp and fairly detailed although at times it looks like an upscaled DVD. The image is clean of dirt and specks and it was free of compression related issues.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included on the film in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are also included. The audio presents the dialogue clearly and without distortion, the films ambient sounds are adequate and the music is well rendered throughout the sound space. The track isn't exactly active or truly immersive being a fairly straightforward comedy it doesn't require the same depth and scope of an action film. The track is serviceable and suits the film, which is all we could have expected.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Extras

Paramount has included only a few extras on this release, these include an audio commentary, two featurettes and a gag reel. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by co-writer/director David Koepp and actor Ricky Gervais. This track is funnier than the film, which is saying a lot. I enjoyed their banter and it actually made watching the film again less painful. The two comment on working on a small scale film and with the rest of the cast. They comment on the locations and shooting in New York, the story and script, among other things. Gervais jokes around a bit and adds a sense of fun to what could have been a dry and humorless track had it only included Koepp.

"Making Ghost Town" is the first of two featurettes and runs for 22 minutes 40 seconds, this is a fairly basic EPK clip that covers all the basis, the cast and crew talk about the story and its plot points, they discuss the characters and on working on the film. The feature includes some behind-the-scenes footage and the usual amount of interviews.

Next is the "Ghostly Effects" featurette which runs for 2 minutes 1 seconds, this short clip takes a look at the fairly average special effects of the film in creating the ghosts and having people and object lass through them.

The final feature on this disc is a gag reel entitled "Some People Can Do It" and runs for 6 minutes 21 seconds, this is basically the usual lot of outtakes, line flubs, missed cues and cast breaking out into laughter on the set and in-between takes.

Overall

The Film: D- Video: A Audio: B Extras: C Overall: C+

 


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