The Office creator Ricky Gervais has found the right character for his first starring role on the big screen, but the film itself isn't quite so spot-on.

The Office creator Ricky Gervais has found the right character for his first starring role on the big screen, but the film itself isn't quite so spot-on.

In Ghost Town, director and co-scripter David Koepp, a veteran screenwriter who's mostly made thrillers when stepping behind the camera, offers sort of a comic reworking of a previous effort, Stir of Echoes. Though he gets comedy in his writing (Death Becomes Her), Koepp doesn't have a good grasp of it off the page.

Gervais is Bertram Pincus, a fitting name for a distant, uptight little man who chose a career in dentistry for the lack of conversation it ensured.

Declared dead for several minutes during a routine hospital procedure, Bertram emerges with an ability to see the huge afterlife population in Manhattan, including Frank (Greg Kinnear), a recently deceased philanderer who wants Bertram to get to know his widow, Gwen (Tea Leoni), so he can break up her new relationship.

"Ghost Town"

Opens Friday

Grade: B-

The dead follow Bertram around the city with individual demands while he awkwardly tries to do Frank's bidding. Gervais handles the imposition with a perfect air of smug distaste before evolving believably into a love interest for Gwen.

He's the best thing in the film, but his deftness makes Koepp's strained comic timing and obvious scatological gags that much harder to handle.