Ghost whisperer

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The Office creator Ricky Gervais has found the right character for his first starring role on the big screen, but the film itself isn't quite so spot-on.

In Ghost Town, director and co-scripter David Koepp, a veteran screenwriter who's mostly made thrillers when stepping behind the camera, offers sort of a comic reworking of a previous effort, Stir of Echoes. Though he gets comedy in his writing (Death Becomes Her), Koepp doesn't have a good grasp of it off the page.

Gervais is Bertram Pincus, a fitting name for a distant, uptight little man who chose a career in dentistry for the lack of conversation it ensured.

Declared dead for several minutes during a routine hospital procedure, Bertram emerges with an ability to see the huge afterlife population in Manhattan, including Frank (Greg Kinnear), a recently deceased philanderer who wants Bertram to get to know his widow, Gwen (Tea Leoni), so he can break up her new relationship.

The dead follow Bertram around the city with individual demands while he awkwardly tries to do Frank's bidding. Gervais handles the imposition with a perfect air of smug distaste before evolving believably into a love interest for Gwen.

He's the best thing in the film, but his deftness makes Koepp's strained comic timing and obvious scatological gags that much harder to handle.