A notable change of pace for director and co-writer David Koepp, whose screenplays tend to run along the epic lines of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," "Spider-Man" and "War of the Worlds," this lower-key effort offers up a winning mix of sharp comedy and touching bits that keeps the laughter -- a few tears -- flowing.
It follows a time-honored formula, to be sure, but with the hilariously sardonic Ricky Gervais on hand to keep the creeping pathos in check, you've got a spirited crowd-pleaser that's destined to be one of the biggest comedy hits of the fall season.
In his first feature starring role, Gervais is comfortably spot-on as Bertram Pincus, a miserably misanthropic New York dentist (he doesn't hate crowds, just "the individuals within them") whose near-death experience during a routine hospital procedure leaves him with a newfound ability: He can see dead people. Lots of them -- all wandering around the streets of Manhattan with unfinished business to address, and they're turning to Dr. Pincus as their liaison to the living.
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