Ghost Town (2008)

2010 #37
David Koepp | 98 mins | TV | 12 / PG-13

Before I come to write a review, I tend to check out the sort of scores it’s received at a few different sites. This isn’t to help form my opinion, but actually just a side effect of the fact I go to places to rate the films myself. What one usually encounters is some degree of discrepancy, be it as little as half a mark or as large as several. As you may have guessed, Ghost Town is going to prove the exception: on IMDb, both the DVD and the Blu-ray on LOVEFiLM, and FilmJournal’s own Slate Scrawl, Ghost Town is a three-and-a-half-out-of-five film.*

As some readers may have noticed, I don’t do half-stars, which means Ghost Town must in my eyes become either a three-star or a four-star effort. Which for once is a little irritating, because Ghost Town really is a three-and-a-half-out-of-five kind of film.

This is the point at which it becomes apparent I have far more to say about my arbitrary assessment of the film’s reception than the film itself. It’s a gently amusing affair, with little that’s especially memorable but is absolutely fine while it goes about its business. Many scenes may raise a smile or a giggle, but little more than that. Scenes of hospital bureaucracy, for example, are amusing because we can identify with the legal-technicalities-to-the-point-of-silliness that it plays upon, but it’s both a familiar target and perhaps pushed a little too far.

The high-concept at the film’s centre — that Ricky Gervais sees dead people and doesn’t want to — is neat enough. It largely sticks to its rules, it manages a few moments of humour, it doesn’t get too repetitive, it often plays the most obvious card (someone thinks Ricky’s talking to them when he’s actually talking to a ghost! Oh, my sides.) And Gervais, as you’re no doubt aware, plays himself. He doesn’t do characters but variations on a theme, and while this means he’ll never be a good actor per se, he can fulfil such characters very competently.

Ghost Town won’t have you fighting back tears of laughter (unless you’re particularly undiscerning), but it also won’t have you wondering where they left the humour (unless you’re particularly discerning). It’s quite amiable, quite pleasant, a little above average. It’s three-and-a-half-out-of-five.

3 out of 5

The half star’s a ghost. Only Ricky Gervais can see it.

Ghost Town is on BBC One tonight, 28th April 2015, at 11:55pm.

* If you cast the net further afield this collapses, but shh, that’d ruin my point. (Though read the actual review quotes on that link and you begin to wonder how accurate a meter that particular fruit/vegetable-based system is.) And besides, this particular four-way alignment is still rare enough that I find it worth commenting on, especially as IMDb’s out-of-100 system lands it with an exact 7.0. OK, so this is ultimately a largely-meaningless selection of averaged-out and individual opinion, but again, shh, you’re spoiling my point. ^