Ricky Gervais hosted the 67th Golden Globes Awards with the same prickly disregard for fakery he displayed when he appeared on The Tonight Show this past week [where he suggested that he plug all his projects up front in case NBC kicked Conan out a wee bit early].
When he was not-so-gently ribbing stars like Mel Gibson [“I like a drink as much as the next man – except when the next man is Mel Gibson”] and Meryl Streep whose double nominations got one of the best bits of the night [something about being “greedily nominated” for It’s Complicated and Julie & Julia], he was flogging the DVD releases for the complete series of the British original version of The Office and his latest film, The Invention of Lying – or his upcoming animated series, The Ricky Gervais Show [on HBO].
A few years following Larry Daley’s (Ben Stiller) first adventure as night watchman in New York City’s Museum of Natural History, Daley discovers that his friends, the exhibits which come to life, are now being shipped to the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. Upon arrival however, Daley’s old compatriots now find themselves battling against a whole slew of new, evil exhibits bent on conquering the world.
In 2006, moviegoers around the world followed a newly recruited night security guard as he experience the American Museum of Natural History in NYC for just one night. He discovers an ancient curse that causes the museum’s exhibits to come to life and giving the guard a night he’ll never forget. Based on a 1993 children’s book by Milan Trenc, Night at the Museum raked in over $250 million at the box office and increased the visitors of the Museum of Natural History by nearly 20%.
Nearly three years later, we are once again following the adventures of Larry Daley for another night at the museum. This time, we head down to the mother of all museums: the Smithsonian in our Nation’s Capital. What better way to celebrate Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian then to have the World Premiere of the film at the National Air & Space Museum. Fans and unexpected museum patrons gathered around the entrance on Jefferson Avenue of the National Air & Space Museum to get their taste of Hollywood in DC. Among the cast in attendance are Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Ricky Gervais, Robin Williams, and more. This was the first film to be actually shot at the Smithsonian Institution. I have a feeling that the after moviegoers watch the sequel, the Smithsonian’s attendace will go up. I had the pleasure to meet the cast and crew on Thursday to ask about their experiences making this film.
Hollywood has come to Washington D.C., as Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, the sequel to the 2006 family hit movie debuts in the museum’s backyard. Since most of the action takes place in and around the famed exhibits surrounding the National Mall, the cast and crew decided to come promote the film by holding a press conference in the Smithsonian Castle.
Sitting before me was a star-studded lineup including: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, Rick Gervais, Hank Azaria, director Shawn Levy and writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon.
Stiller started things off by talking a little bit about his character of Larry, and how it felt like the right time to revisit the series. He mentioned how Larry is no longer really happy in his life, and he finds himself needing that bit of adventure back, which is what launches the story.
Bertram Pincus [Ricky Gervais] is a solitary man, rude and generally misanthropic, he lives alone and has a job [he’s a dentist] where he can make sure his patients don’t to him. He even has his office literally a few yards from he works so he can avoid as many people as possible – until he goes in for a routine colonoscopy. After the procedure, he finds himself being assailed by the ghosts of people who had unfinished business when they died – the most insistent of whom, Frank Herlihy [Greg Kinnear], believes that his unfinished business is to prevent his widow, Gwen [Tea Leoni], from marrying a “scumbag lawyer.” Problems arise when Pincus manages to weasel his way into her life via the manner in which an important mummified Egyptian died, and he gets the opportunity to meet Gwen’s finance´.
Ghost Town reminded of the superb Truly, Madly, Deeply, though it’s a good deal more superficial. David Koepp and John Kamps’ script works best when director Koepp allows the rhythms of the dialogue to dictate the pacing and when he leads Gervais into some genuinely poignant moments of revelation – regarding himself and how much he’s been missing while he wastes his life. There are moments where the film verges on maudlin, but Koepp manages to walk that line reasonably well throughout.
It’s not a surprise that Gervais made me laugh here. What is a surprise is the deftness with which he handles the poignant moments mentioned above. Both work because he has terrific chemistry with both Kinnear and Leoni. Kinnear plays Frank as a seeming good guy with a surface smarm but takes it to a level where it masks a smarmy guy who projects a superficial good guy over his smarm, but beneath an equally superficial level of smarm [please don’t ask me to say that again…]. Leoni, who has always had terrific comic chops, matched Gervais mood for mood – and she matches his banter equally well.
There’s a scene where Pincus goes off on politically incorrect riff on the Chinese that really isn’t funny, but because Gwen thinks he’s joking, and laughs, it becomes a far more disarming scene than it might have been. Gervais and Leoni work this potentially awkward scene in such a way that we believe because they’ve established their odd rapport from early on. In the end, it’s the chemistry between Gervais and Leoni – and the way they play off each other – that raises Ghost town above the average romantic dramedy – supernatural or otherwise.
Ghost Town is one of those rare romantic type comedies that doesn’t fall prey to the over use of clichés or sappy sweetness.It remains smart, funny and sometimes bitingly sarcastic.
The premise of Ghost Town falls somewhere between the elements of the recent ‘Over My Dead Body’ and the older ‘Heart and Souls’ and this movie manages to capture the comedy aspects that ‘Over My Dead Body’ failed to live up to and yet match the reaffirming warmth found in ‘Heart and Souls’. For this reviewer it made for a funny and winning combination. Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW – Ghost Town→