Ghost Town (Blu-ray) (2008)
"All work and no play makes Jack ... a vital member of society."- Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais)
Stars: Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, Tťa Leoni
Other Stars: Alan Ruck, Aasif Mandvi, Bridget Moloney
Director: David Koepp
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Some strong language, sexual humor and drug references.
Run Time: 01h:41m:56s
Release Date: 2008-12-27
DVD ReviewI wonder what happened to movies that failed to garner public attention before the home video heyday? I mean, I know what happened: they faded into obscurity, only to live in the consciousness of the few who forked over their dollars to see it. There was no choice but to wait for a cable premiere or a revival screening. Thankfully, weíre afforded more luxury than that these days, and itís a good thing. I didnít even notice Ghost Town when it hit theaters in the fall of 2008. Iíd seen a trailer sometime over the summer and, being a fan of Ricky Gervais, thought it looked fairly enjoyable. Then I forgot all about it until this Blu-ray appeared on my doorstep.
Ricky Gervais plays Bertram Pincus, a disgruntled New York City dentist who finds himself greatly annoyed by just about everyone he encounters during his day to day routine. After a colonoscopy, Pincus discovers he died for several minutes and, as a result, has the newfound ability to see a legion of ghosts still lingering around this life. At first this is an even greater annoyance for Pincus (he canít be bothered to care about the living, never mind the dead) and he goes out of his way to ignore it. But he canít ignore them all, least of all Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), a persistent spirit who cannot cross over into the afterlife until he makes amends with his wife (Tea Leoni). Reluctantly, Pincus agrees to help get Frankís message across just in time to find himself falling for the attractive widow.
If Ghost Town sounds like familiar territory, I suppose it is. At the core, itís essentially a Scrooge story about a self-centered, unhappy character who learns the value of life (and happiness) through helping others (in this case, a slew of ghosts). It distinguishes itself from the pack, however, with a strong central cast and an especially smart script written by John Kamps and David Koepp (who serves double duty as a director). Iíve always enjoyed Koeppís work as a director (I hold The Trigger Effect to be one of the most underrated films of the 1990s) and this is no different. He takes what couldíve been a one-note comedy gimmick and turns it into a strong, heartfelt film that makes you care about its characters by creating real people (even the dead ones). The end result is an engrossing comedy that doesnít skimp on the charm.
And speaking of charm, one canít compliment the film without mentioning its cast. Gervais is absolutely hilarious here, providing a great deal of the laughs with his quick-witted, sarcastic dialogue. Fans of the comedian shouldnít be disappointed by his handling of the material, and what surprised me most was his ability to carry a major film. I suspect that a least part of Ghost Townís box office failure stems from Americaís unfamiliarity with Gervais, but donít let that stop you from checking this out. As his romantic interest, Tea Leoni made me realize how much I like her screen presence and wish she would do more films. Sheís got the likability and charisma to be a major movie star but, sadly, that appears to have eluded her thus far. Lastly, Greg Kinnear is charming as the ghost struggling to set his life right, even though heís no longer living it.
Thereís a lot of fun to be hard here, but itís the heart that serves as the backbone of Ghost Town. It seems as though most comedies in this day and age are too caught up in their own irreverence to bother with depicting honest to goodness characters, and thatís why this is a standout, an example of how emotion doesnít have to be sacrificed at the expense of comedy. I have no problem giving this one a confident recommendation.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-
|Aspect Ratio||1.78:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Ghost Town makes its Blu-ray bow courtesy of DreamWorks, and the 1080p presentation is a solid one. Color contrast is sharp and pleasing without masking the film grain which rears its head from time to time. I always enjoy seeing film grain as it usually tells me that no obnoxious DNR has been applied to the mix. Detail is remarkable, with textures appearing very rich and lavish. There are solid black levels and whites are equally satisfying. No waxy skintones, either. Overall, this is a very pleasing image.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
|English; Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital||yes|
Audio Transfer Review: There isn't much happening in this film that would really exploit the True HD track offered on this disc. But that said, it's a satisfying experience that represents the film nicely. This is a predominantly dialogue-heavy film, so it's no surprise that most of the action is relegated to the front and center channels. Rear channels aren't necessarily as powerful as they could be in terms of the crowd-heavy settings. I'll knock a few points off for that, but it's a perfectly respectable way to view the film.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Co-Writer/Director David Koepp and Ricky Gervais
Packaging: standard Blu-ray packaging
Extras Review: First up, the commentary track with director David Koepp and actor Ricky Gervais is the extra feature to check out. It's nicely done, both funny and informative, without getting bogged down with that peksy 'scene by scene' narration that plagues many tracks these days.
Making Ghost Town (22:40) is a standard fluff piece that features interviews with the cast and crew but never has the depth and/or insight you'd want. As far as promotional bits go, this isn't too bad (and it's in HD, at least), but it does little to leave an impression.
Ghostly Effects (2:01) is another HD extra focused on the film's FX work.
Lastly, Some People Can Do It (6:20) is an enjoyable gag reel.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsUnjustly ignored at the box office, DreamWorks provides Ghost Town with a pleasing Blu-ray in terms of picture quality and content. Sure, the supplemental material is a little light, but it does offer one funny commentary track for Gervais fans. If youíre looking for a charming little comedy, you should definitely get this little gem on your radar.
Matt Serafini 2009-01-30