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Ghost Town (watch the trailer here) may not be original, but it is amusing. The romantic comedy starring Ricky Gervais (of Britain's "The Office") trails the life of an aloof dentist who can see dead people after a botched colonoscopy. Haunted by NYC ghosts pleading for help with their unfinished business, he proves heartless until the widow (Téa Leoni) of one cheating spirit (Greg Kinnear) perks up his otherwise lonely life.
The film clings to clichés and wastes screen time on some flat characters, but still manages to glide along on Gervais' dry, charming humor. Devoid of gore and messy back stories, the ghost story stays lighthearted, aside from a tearjerker montage near the end.
It is doubly shocking, then, when Gervais' character twice whips out racist humor that seems both unexplained and excessive. In the first instance, Leoni and Gervais are holding back giggles from her fuddy-duddy human rights lawyer boyfriend when Gervais peeps out that the Chinese are the only ones different from the rest of the human population. Refusing to stop there, he continues by mocking names like "Pong." Later he targets his Indian colleague for tips on how to torture a patient for information (after asking his religion, of course).
Gervais' character is selfish and socially-awkward, for sure, but the racial comments seem contrived and tossed in for cheap laughs. See the film yourself and let us know what you think about movies with racial implications.
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.