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The cover's funny, anyway
on 19 June 2009
This is a film with more going against it than for it. As I watched it I was reminded of the fine As Good As It Gets [DVD]  with the occasional paint splash of the equally fine "Ghost [DVD] ". It gives both films and others, too, a nod but is far too knowing for its own good. First mistake.
True, it has all the acidity of Jack Nicholson's exploration of a sociopath in that fine outing but ultimately it lacks that film's fundamental sincerity. When Jack's character says "you make me want to be a better person" it's a wholly believable and touching moment. I'm afraid "Ghost Town" hasn't anything to match this and mostly this is down to its lead.
One thing I noticed in particular was that Mr Gervais seems to be looking forever over the shoulder of whoever he's talking to in much the same way that Tony Hancock did once he had discovered cue-cards in his later TV series. If you can be bothered, please just skip through the film again and I hope you'll see what I mean. He's forever looking off into the middle distance as he delivers his lines. It's quite distracting after a time and really rather annoying. If you add to the mix the Hollywood credo that tall, slim beautiful thirty-somethings always, just always, fall for slightly overweight middle-aged men (happens all the time, doesn't it?) the result is as realistic as it is funny.
Add further to the mix that the film is desperately short on laughs, plenty of savage remarks for sure, but simply not very funny and the whole lot makes for a pretty missable ninety odd minutes.
If you're determined to enjoy it, for one thing you'll have to accept Ricky Gervais as a romantic lead. No, I couldn't either. My best guess is that the small world of "The Office" and "Extras" on TV still, I think, suit him more than the wide-open spaces of feature films even the wannabe romantic, fluffy light-weight comedies such as this.