A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, overall, the content of this sweet romantic comedy is tamer than not. There are some allusions to infidelity (though viewers don't see it happening), a bit of social drinking, a few jokes about prescription drug abuse, and some fairly infrequent swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t"), but there's no nudity, and the film has an upbeat, hopeful message in the end. That said, one of the main character is a ghost, and some of the discussions about death might be upsetting for young or particularly sensitive kids.
What's the story?
Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) is an ill-natured Manhattan dentist who likes his profession because he doesn't have to chitchat with his patients. In fact, he's loathe to socialize even on the barest level, pressing elevator buttons furiously so he doesn't have to ride up with his neighbors and skipping out when his associate celebrates the birth of his child. But after a colonoscopy goes awry and he technically dies for seven minutes before coming back to life, Bertram won't be left alone anymore. He sees ghosts everywhere -- and they're a talkative bunch, imploring him to help settle their unfinished business. The most persuasive is Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), a tuxedoed philanderer who wants Bertram to help stop his widow's (Tea Leoni) impending remarriage. Bertram agrees to come to his aid, but only if Frank keeps the other spirits at bay and promises to leave him alone when the job's done. But soon Bertram learns he has unfinished business, too.
Is it any good?
It's refreshing to find a romantic comedy that doesn't try too hard. There's an ease to the storytelling in GHOST TOWN that eschews the typical look-at-me-I'm-so-cute style that too many others adopt. It also ably balances pathos with humor, mining the sadness in a moment -- the film is about death, after all -- while preventing it from getting too mournful and breaking the mood.
That said, the story takes a little too much time to unfold; the first 30 minutes are on the cusp of being slow. And then the end feels compressed, the romance rushed. Plus, the chemistry between Gervais -- who's certainly appealing in his oddball way -- and Leoni is nonexistent. While you can imagine them hanging out at a cocktail party and having an unexpectedly great time, they're unconvincing as a potential couple. The real winner here is the city of New York, which, though haunted by ghosts, is showcased at its glowy, autumnal best.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's message. What point is it making about how to live life while you can? What does Bertram learn from the ghosts? Is his transformation believable? Families can also discuss how this movie compares to other romantic comedies. Can you think of any movies it's similar to?
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