Ricky Gervais is easily one of the funniest men on the planet. I have never seen something that he has put effort into that has come out poorly. Unless you count "Night at the Museum" in which he was the museum curator. But he was only in it for a few minutes.
Regardless, despite the seemingly tired premise, I was anticipating this movie if only for the chance to see how Gervais fared in carrying a movie all on his own. Fortunately, he succeeds handily in a well constructed movie in its own right.
Gervais plays Burtram Pincus, a dentist in New York City who cares nothing else for the lives of others. Content living his own dissatisfied life, he makes no effort to help others in any way. Yet, after a routine colonoscopy goes awry and he dies on the operating table for 7 minutes, he awakes with the ability to see the ghosts that have yet to cross over. One of these ghosts is Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), who convinces Pincus to help break up his widow, Gwen's (Tea Leoni) new engagement with Richard (Billy Campbell).
The story seems pretty straightforward from the outset, but writer/director David Koepp provides enough originality to keep you interested. Sure, plenty of the ghost movie cliches are here, but many are delivered with such humor that it becomes rather easy to forgive the lack of originality in these moments. The story also takes a few rather heartfelt turns, but not at the expense of the humor. Underneath it all lies a story of a man who refuses to see the joy that letting other people into his life can bring.
When all is said and done, the movie does not exactly come close to greatness, but is an excellent showcase for Gervais' comedic talents and a step up from Koepp's previous directorial effort, Secret Window with Johnny Depp. Overall, the film is just a well-crafted, somewhat unconventional romantic comedy that succeeds in being both engaging and hilarious throughout the duration of its run time.