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  'Ghost Town' Movie Review (3 1/2 Stars)
      Movie Reviews by Michael Phillips

 

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"Ghost Town" is a welcome surprise: a supernatural romantic comedy that works, graced with a cast just off-center enough to make it distinctive.

It may be too easygoing for some people.

But -- hate to reduce it this way -- I laughed quite a lot and cried a tiny bit, near the end there, and I didn't feel as though director and co-writer David Koepp, who shares screenplay credit with fellow Wisconsinite John Kamps, was working me over and calculating the living daylights out of each and every scene.

It's set in a lovely, autumnally inviting Manhattan, photographed in rich russet and golden tones by Fred Murphy.

New York City looks so good the ghosts don't want to leave. This is the dilemma for Dr. Bertram Pincus, DDS, the sour, snappish loner played by Ricky Gervais of "The Office" (the British one, the one utterly unafraid of causing audience hilarity and pain in equal measures).

A freak accident during a routine colonoscopy takes Pincus to the other side for seven seconds. When he comes back, things aren't the same; now he can see and hear all the spirits of the dead caught in limbo with unfinished business on their open-ended agendas.

One such spirit is played by Greg Kinnear, who spends the entirety of "Ghost Town" dressed in a natty tux.

In this version of Manhattan afterlife, whatever you die in, you stay in. Kinnear's Frank Herlihy has left behind a widow, Gwen, played by Tea Leoni. Herlihy starts tailing Pincus and eventually reveals his request: If Pincus can bust up Gwen's imminent marriage to a human rights lawyer (Billy Campbell) her late husband believes isn't good enough for her, then he'll leave Pincus in peace.

This paves the way for an unlikely alliance between the dentist with the long-chilled heart and the archeologist, Gwen, with the irresistibly raspy voice and unerring comic topspin, not to mention excellent dramatic chops.

I am pretty much sold on Leoni's skills in any film, but here she gets a fuller range and better scene partners than usual.

None of the major characters in "Ghost Town" are particularly easy to like at first, and that's to the film's benefit later on. When Gervais finally gives in and agrees to assist various supporting ghosts in their respective projects -- the earthly things that have been nagging at them -- the film deepens and becomes unexpectedly moving.

The plotting loses some steam in its middle third, but Gervais makes a fine sourball.

He's a sourball with a motormouth. Pincus cannot suffer fools gladly, himself included. My favorite scene in the movie, and one of my favorites of the year, finds Pincus trying to get a straight answer out of his profoundly passive-aggressive young surgeon about what happened during the checkup to cause him to be plagued by spectral Manhattanites.

Kristen Wiig, who was so remarkably droll as the undermining TV network staffer in "Knocked Up," works wonders with Gervais here. Double talk and hesitant, half-formed sentences rarely sound so ticklish to the ear.

Director Koepp isn't best known for comedy, and at times you sense "Ghost Town," as well-crafted as it is, searching for the optimal tone. I wish the whacked-by-a-bus sight gag weren't shot (and then repeated) in a way recalling a dozen other whacked-by-a-vehicle sight gags, either in features or commercials. There's a scene missing, I think, in which we see Leoni's Gwen falling for the dentist with the mouthful of bile.

Yet key moments work very well. "I want to know why I wasn't enough for him," a distraught Gwen says to Pincus, once she's convinced he really has had conversations with her late, cheating, unreliable husband. Leoni and Gervais have genuine dramatic instincts, and this is why "Ghost Town" -- a classy diversion, nothing more -- succeeds in its shift toward pathos where so many other ghost comedies have failed. Also, Koepp lets his performers share a wide shot more often than you usually see these days.

The payoff is clear: When actors are allowed to interact in an ensemble piece, even a film with its share of nods to "Topper" and "It's a Wonderful Life" ("Wanna help me earn my wings?" Kinnear asks Gervais) can establish its own personality.

 

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for some strong language, sexual humor and drug references).

Running time: 1:43.

Starring: Ricky Gervais (Bertram Pincus); Tea Leoni (Gwen Herlihy); Greg Kinnear (Frank Herlihy); Billy Campbell (Richard); Dana Ivey (Mrs. Pickthall); Kristen Wiig (Surgeon).

Directed by David Koepp; written by Koepp and John Kamps; photographed by Fred Murphy; edited by Sam Seig; production design by Howard Cummings; music by Geoff Zanelli; produced by Gavin Polone. A DreamWorks Pictures release.

About "Ghost Town" the Movie

"Look, here's the deal - New York is lousy with ghosts. They're everywhere, and they're a noisy, pushy,demanding bunch, just like when they were alive . . .Normally, we can't talk to the living, but then youcome along, and imagine the excitement."

- Frank Herlihy's ghost (Greg Kinnear) to Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais)

Unbeknownst to us, Manhattan is crowded with ghostly apparitions and unexpected redemption for the living - and even for the recently departed - in the comic fantasy "Ghost Town."

It all begins with Dr. Bertram Pincus (Golden Globe winner RICKY GERVAIS), a man whose people skills leave much to be desired. When Pincus dies unexpectedly during a routine medical procedure, but is miraculously revived after seven minutes, he wakes up to discover that he now has the annoying ability to see ghosts. Even worse, they all want something from him, particularly Frank Herlihy (Academy Award® nominee GREG KINNEAR), who pesters him into attempting to break up the impending re-marriage of his widow Gwen (TÉA LEONI).

"Ghost Town" brings together the comic imaginations of two of Hollywood's most intriguing talents: writer-director David Koepp (screenwriter of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," among many others; writer/director of "Secret Window" and "Stir of Echoes") and Ricky Gervais (the Golden Globe-winning creator and star of the original "The Office" and HBO's "Extras"), who makes his debut as an eccentric leading man in the film. The result is a witty, sophisticated, yet riotous comedy about a man who is haunted by his past - and given a rare chance to exorcise all his demons.

DreamWorks Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment Present A Pariah Production "Ghost Town" starring Ricky Gervais, Téa Leoni, Greg Kinnear, Billy Campbell, Kristen Wiig and Dana Ivey. The film is directed by David Koepp and written by David Koepp & John Kamps. The producer is Gavin Polone. The executive producers are Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber and Ezra Swerdlow. The director of photography is Fred Murphy. The production designer is Howard Cummings. The editor is Sam Seig. The costume designer is Sarah Edwards. The music is by Geoff Zanelli. This film has been rated PG-13 for some strong language, sexual humor and drug references.

About the Cast "Ghost Town" the Movie

RICKY GERVAIS (Bertram Pincus)

A British comedian with expert delivery of bone-dry comedy, became famous for playing the egotistical and much-despised office manager David Brent to perfection on the BBC series "The Office," which along with being one of England's best-loved sitcoms, went on to become a hit in the U.S. Two-faced, hypocritical, lying and inept are just a few adjectives that have been used to describe Brent, and Gervais' portrayal was so spot-on, he often found himself working overtime off-screen to prove he wasn't as vain or shallow in real life. Indeed, Gervais has in the past shaved off the trademark goatee upon completing a season of filming "The Office" to help distinguish himself from his character. Regardless of any aversions to being compared to Brent, Gervais certainly enjoyed the enormous success of his series, co-created with one-time assistant Steve Merchant, including winning two Golden Globe Awards, one for Television Series, Comedy, the other for Actor in a Lead Role -Comedy. In just a few years, Gervais has gone from self-described slacker to successful television comedian. The actor grew up the son of a laborer in public housing in Reading, England, and soon discovered his two most prominent talents: comedy and sloth. While in college, Gervais dropped his biology major, which proved far too taxing to handle, and started a pop band called Seona Dancing. The group released two singles that cracked the charts at numbers 117 and 70. After he realized playing music wasn't his cup of tea, Gervais tried the business end by managing a band called Suede to similar results. Gervais moved on to his first real job as an entertainment manager for the student union at University College London. After several years in an office environment, an experience that would later prove fruitful, Gervais landed a job as a DJ at the London radio station XFM. Immediately, Gervais demanded he have an assistant and was given Merchant's name. Gervais asked Merchant if he would do all the work, and since Merchant said yes, he was hired.

The two struck up a quick friendship, which later turned into a creative partnership when Merchant suggested that they work together.

Gervais moved from XFM to the BBC, taking Merchant along with him. In 1998, Merchant shot video of Gervais improvising and submitted it to station and network executives. The BBC liked the footage enough to set up a series, but ultimately dragged their feet in getting it made. Meanwhile, Gervais starred as a bigoted news reporter on "The 11 O'Clock Show." Though he was playing a character, Gervais used his own name, a decision he later regretted, because he really didn't feel that, among other things, famine was a good thing. Gervais went on to host "Meet Ricky Gervais," but found himself off the air after only a couple months. Then in 2001, the BBC finally picked up "The Office," but test marketing nearly killed the series. Luckily, the channel loved the series and aired it anyway. Despite focus group numbers comparable to women's hockey, season one averaged 1.8 million viewers, and season two raked in 4.2 million, a 20 percent share of total viewership in the U.K. Gervais suddenly found himself a national celebrity, winning best comedy performer at the BAFTA TV Awards in 2002 and 2003, as well as the aforementioned Golden Globe Awards. NBC later collaborated with Gervais on an American remake of "The Office" - although he had no plans to star in or directly oversee the series - which became a hit series starring Steve Carell in the Gervais role. Venturing into a less mainstream realm with HBO, Gervais re-teamed with Merchant in 2005 to co-create, produce and star in "Extras," which cast him in another hapless, chattering role - this one slightly less oblivious and more likeable than David Brent - playing Andy Millman, a workaday acting extra in British film who often gets embroiled in painfully hilarious encounters with major celebrities.

Though "Ghost Town" represents Gervais' first starring film role, he has appeared in "Stardust," "Night at the Museum" and "For Your Consideration." He recently co-starred, wrote and co-directed "This Side of the Truth" with Jennifer Garner.

TÉA LEONI (Gwen)

An actress of extraordinary versatility and charm, who has portrayed an impressive list of characters on the screen.

Leoni most recently starred in the IFC film "You Kill Me," opposite Ben Kingsley and Luke Wilson. Leoni was also an executive producer on the film, a mob comedy in which Kingsley played an alcoholic hitman who moves to San Francisco to become sober by attending AA meetings, getting a sponsor and landing a job in a mortuary, where he meets and falls in love with Leoni's character. The film was screened at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.

In 2005, Leoni starred opposite Jim Carrey in "Fun with Dick and Jane," a comedy about a husband and wife who turn to robbery as a last resort to pay their bills. Also in 2005, she starred in David Duchovny's writing and directorial debut, "House of D," which was released by Lionsgate Films. The film tells a story of a man who discovers who he really is by working through problems stemming from his past.

In 2004, Leoni starred opposite Adam Sandler in the James L. Brooks film "Spanglish," for Columbia Pictures.

In 2002, Leoni appeared opposite Al Pacino and Kim Basinger in director Dan Algrant's "People I Know." She also starred opposite Woody Allen in his film "Hollywood Ending" and, in 2001, Universal's "Jurassic Park III" opposite Sam Neill, William H. Macy and Alessandro Nivola.

In 2000, Leoni starred opposite Nicolas Cage in Universal's "The Family Man." The film tells the story of an investment banker, portrayed by Cage, who has forsaken love for his career. He wakes up one day to find himself living the life he would have enjoyed had he married his college sweetheart, portrayed by Leoni. The film was directed by Brett Ratner.

In 1998, Leoni starred in one of the year's most successful films, "Deep Impact," opposite Morgan Freeman and Vanessa Redgrave. The science-fiction drama was directed by Mimi Leder and executive-produced by Steven Spielberg.

Leoni is best known for her critically acclaimed role in the situation comedy "The Naked Truth." As Nora Wilde, Leoni portrayed a former socialite and photojournalist who is forced to take a job with a tabloid as a paparazzi photographer. "The Naked Truth" aired on NBC during the 1996-1998 television seasons and on ABC in 1995. In 1996, Leoni was also seen in Miramax's comedy "Flirting with Disaster" co-starring opposite Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Mary Tyler Moore and George Segal. Prior to

"The Naked Truth," Leoni was known for her starring role as Alicia, the flamboyant and unpredictable beauty on the Fox comedy series "Flying Blind." She also starred in "The Counterfeit Contessa," an original film for Fox Television, in which she co-starred with D.W. Moffett and Holland Taylor. Born in New York City, Leoni became interested in acting through the influence of her grandmother, a former Broadway actress. Nicknamed Sarah Bernhardt because of her melodramatic tendencies, Leoni didn't pursue her craft immediately. Instead, she studied anthropology and psychology at Sarah Lawrence and then took time off from school to travel, living in Tokyo and Italy and on St. Croix. Upon her return to New York, she went on her first audition. Competing with thousands of actresses from all over the country, Leoni landed one of the coveted roles in "Angels '88," a "Charlie's Angels" spinoff. Having relocated to Los Angeles for the series, Leoni began to study her craft. She went on to appear in the feature films "Switch" and "Indian Love Story," as well as tackling roles in "A League of Their Own," "Wyatt Earp" and 1995's hit action comedy "Bad Boys." Leoni resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two young children.

GREG KINNEAR (Frank Herlihy)

An Academy Award®-nominated actor who continues to build upon his already impressive resume with roles in many diverse projects. He was most recently seen starring opposite Tina Fey in Universal's comedy "Baby Mama," and will be seen in this fall's "Flash of Genius" co-starring Lauren Graham. He recently completed production on the Paul Greengrass-directed war drama "Green Zone" alongside Matt Damon and Amy Ryan, which is slated for a 2009 release.

Kinnear starred in "Little Miss Sunshine," the critically-acclaimed hit of the Sundance Film Festival, as a struggling motivational coach who leads his family on an eventful road trip so that his seven-year-old daughter can realize her dream of competing in a beauty pageant. Lauded by critics nationwide, "Little Miss Sunshine" went on to garner several Academy Award® nominations and Independent Spirit Awards. Kinnear, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin, Paul Dano and Toni Collette collectively won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

Kinnear segued from beauty pageants to the gridiron, starring opposite Mark Wahlberg in the hit film "Invincible," the real-life tale of Vince Papale, a 30year-old bartender who goes to an open-tryout of the Philadelphia Eagles organized by the team's new coach Dick Vermeil (Kinnear). He then starred in Richard Linklater's "Fast Food Nation," based on the best-selling book by Eric Schlosser, as well as "Feast of Love" directed by Robert Benton and co-starring Morgan Freeman.

Kinnear made his feature film debut in the Sydney Pollack-directed remake "Sabrina," in which he co-starred with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond. In 1997, Kinnear starred alongside Jack Nicholson as his unfortunate neighbor, Simon, in James L. Brooks' Academy Award®-nominated film "As Good as It Gets." His performance garnered him not only an Academy Award® nomination, but also earned him the honor of being named Best Supporting Actor by the National Board of Review; he was also nominated in the same category for a Golden Globe and a SAG Award.

Following his Oscar®-nominated performance in "As Good as It Gets," he co-starred in Nora Ephron's romantic hit comedy "You've Got Mail" with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, as well as Mike Nichols' "What Planet Are You From?"

Kinnear's performance of actor and comedian Bob Crane in "Auto Focus," Paul Schraders' critically-acclaimed biopic, was considered by many critics as a turning point in showing Kinnear's dramatic range and depth as an actor. Some of Kinnear's other credits include "The Matador" with Pierce Brosnan; director Neil LaBute's black comedy "Nurse Betty" opposite Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock; the highly successful animated film "Robots," to which Kinnear lent his voice as Ratchet; "We Were Soldiers" with Mel Gibson; and the Farrelly brothers' comedy "Stuck on You," in which he costarred with Matt Damon.

Kinnear first gained prominence as the animated, wisecracking host of E! Entertainment Television's "Talk Soup" in 1991. As the first host of "Talk Soup," he was the master of not one, but of all talk shows with his witty commentary on clips from such programs as "Sally Jesse Raphael," "Jerry Springer" and "Montel." Eventually taking on the additional role of executive producer on the show, Kinnear earned an Emmy Award and rave reviews, and established a cult following.

As the popularity of "Talk Soup" grew, Kinnear captured the attention of NBC executives who were searching for a replacement for Bob Costas. In 1994, after three successful seasons with "Talk Soup," Kinnear left the show permanently and became the host and executive producer of his own NBC late-night talk show, "Later with Greg Kinnear."

Kinnear grew up virtually all over the world as his family followed his State Department-employed father to disparate locales such as Logansport, Indiana; Washington, D.C.; Beirut, Lebanon; and Athens, Greece.

He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and daughters.

BILLY CAMPBELL (Richard)

Most recently starred as Jordan Collier in the USA Network original series "The 4400" for four seasons.

Campbell co-starred with Sela Ward on the critically acclaimed drama "Once and Again." During the series' run, the show was nominated for a Golden Globe® for Best Drama Series, and Campbell was recognized with a nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series-Drama. He also won a People's Choice® Award for Best Male Performer in a New Series.

Campbell grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, and attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago, where he studied illustration. He was trained at the Ted Liss Studio for the Performing Arts and the Players Workshop of Second City in Chicago, and with Howard Fine in Los Angeles.

Campbell made his television debut as a guest star in the network series "Family Ties" and "Hotel" before becoming a series regular as the character Luke Fuller in the long-running prime time drama "Dynasty." His other television credits include a series regular role in NBC's "Crime Story" and ABC's "Moon Over Miami." Campbell appeared in two Armistead Maupin acclaimed miniseries, "Tales of the City" and "More Tales of the City" with Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis, ABC's "Max Q" and CBS's "Monday after the Miracle," with Roma Downey and Moira Kelly. He also starred as Moses in the critically acclaimed NBC miniseries "In the Beginning," co-starring Martin Landau and Jacqueline Bissett, and played murderer Ted Bundy in the USA Network original movie "The Stranger Beside Me." Most recently, he guest-starred on the hit CBS series "Shark" with James Woods.

Other television credits include "The O.C.," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and "The Practice."

Campbell is still recognized for the cult classic "The Rocketeer," with Jennifer Connelly. His other feature film credits include "Bram Stoker's Dracula," "Enough," opposite Jennifer Lopez, and "Gods and Generals."

Among his stage credits, Campbell starred in Los Angeles in "Fortinbras," for which he received a 1996 Ovation Award, as well as "Backbone of America," "Hamlet," "Guys & Dolls" and "The Best Man."

From May 2005 to June 2006, Campbell served as part of the crew on the tall ship Picton-Castle, sailing to more than 20 countries around the world, delivering supplies and educational materials.

KRISTEN WIIG (Surgeon)

Recently completed her third season as part of the ensemble of performers on "Saturday Night Live." Wiig quickly made her mark on "SNL" as an excitable Target Clerk and one-half of the condescending and clueless duo, The A-holes, alongside fellow cast member Jason Sudeikis. She also created the Weekend Update culture correspondent, the endlessly irritated Aunt Linda, as well as the one-upping know-it-all Penelope. Wiig also contributed notable impressions of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, financial whiz Suze Orman, and actresses Drew Barrymore and Megan Mullally, as well as such icons as Judy Garland and Katharine Hepburn.

A native of Rochester, NY, Wiig came to "SNL" from the Los Angeles-based improv/sketch comedy troupe "The Groundlings," where cast mates Will Forte and Maya Rudolph, as well as such distinguished alums as Will Ferrell, Laraine Newman, Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz, began their careers.

Wiig garnered praise for "stealing every scene" (New York Magazine) in Judd Apatow's hit comedy "Knocked Up" and starred opposite Will Arnett and "SNL's" Will Forte in the comedy feature "The Brothers Solomon," directed by Bob Odenkirk. Wiig's recent feature credits include her role in the Apatowproduced "Walk Hard" with John C. Reilly; "Bill" opposite Aaron Eckhart, Jessica Alba and Sudeikis; "Adventureland," from "Superbad" director Greg Mottola; "Semi-Pro" with Will Ferrell; and "Pretty Bird" opposite Paul Giamatti and Billy Crudup. She is in the upcoming feature "All Good Things," a drama/mystery with Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst.

Wiig lives in New York City.

DANA IVEY's (Mrs. Pickthall)

Dana Ivey's face will be familiar to audiences thanks to countless roles in such high-profile films as "The Color Purple" (1985), "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993), "Sabrina" (1995) and "Legally Blonde 2" (2003).

A Georgia native who got her start on the stage, Ivey appeared in numerous American and Canadian theater productions before making her home in New York during the 1980s. It wasn't long before she rose through the ranks of the New York stage scene and made her Broadway debut in Noël Coward's "Present Laughter." A role in "Quartermaine's Terms" and the title role in "Driving Miss Daisy" earned Ivey two Obie Awards. Her work in the Broadway productions of "Heartbreak House" and "Sunday in the Park with George" earned her two supporting actress Tony Award nominations in the mid-1980s.

In 1978, Ivey made her television debut in the daytime soap opera "Search for Tomorrow," and soon her small-screen career blossomed with such efforts as the NBC miniseries "Little Gloria...Happy at Last." Though Ivey simultaneously nurtured a feature career with supporting roles in "Explorers" and "The Color Purple," it was her performance in the 1986 sitcom "Easy Street" that truly found her coming into her own in television. After stage performances in "Heartbreak House" and "Sunday in the Park with George" in 1986, Ivey joined the cast of "All My Children" in 1989 and over the next decade appeared in such films as "The Addams Family" (1991), "Sabrina" (1995) and "Simon Birch" (1998). She still found time to appear in such stage productions as "The Glass Menagerie" in 1998 and "Major Barbara" in 2001.

Other significant Broadway credits include: "Butley" (Tony Award nomination), "The Rivals" (Tony Award nomination), "Henry IV," "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg," "Major Barbara," "Heartbreak House" (Tony Award nomination), "Last Night of Ballyhoo" (Drama Desk Award and Tony Award nomination), "Sunday in the Park with George" (Tony Award nomination), "Present Laughter," "Pack of Lies," "Waiting in the Wings," "The Marriage of Figaro," "Sex and Longing" and "Indiscretions."

Off-Broadway credits include: "Driving Miss Daisy" (Obie and Outer Critics Circle Awards), "Quartermaine's Terms" (Obie and Clarence Derwent Awards), "Mrs. Warren's Profession" (Obie Award), "Beggars in the House of Plenty," "The Uneasy Chair," "Kindertransport," "Tartuffe," "Hamlet" (Bayfield Award).

Regional theater credits include: "The Death of Papa," "Antigone," "Hedda Gabler," "The Miracle Worker," "Misalliance," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (Kennedy Center/Helen Hayes Award nomination), "Patio/Porch," "Romeo and Juliet," "The Taming of the Shrew" and "A Midsummer-Night's Dream."

In Canada, Ivey appeared in: "The Philanderer," "Great Catherine," "A Flea in Her Ear" (Shaw Festival), "Touch of the Poet," "Electra," "The Maids," "The Homecoming," "Total Eclipse," "The Innocents," "Blithe Spirit," "A Doll's House," "Galileo," "Charley's Aunt," "Private Lives" and "The Importance of Being Earnest."

Theater credits in the West End include "In the Summerhouse" (Lyric Hammersmith). London TV includes: "Next" for the BBC.

Television credits include: "The Return of Jezebel James," "A Lesson Before Dying" (HBO), "Easy Street," "Oz," "Homicide" and "Frasier."

Other feature credits include "Rush Hour 3," "A Very Serious Person," "Two Weeks' Notice," "Disney's The Kid," "Addams Family Values," "Home Alone 2" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."

AASIF MANDVI (Dr. Jahangir Prashar)

Has had a successful career that has spanned film, television and stage. His intelligent humor and versatility has allowed his work to remain fresh. Mandvi can currently be seen as the Middle East correspondent on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." The show, now in its 12th season, is enjoying its best ratings in series history.

Mandvi will soon be seen in Disney's "The Proposal" with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds (due for release in September, 2009), and his film, "Pretty Bird," with Paul Giamatti and Billy Crudup, premiered at Sundance 2008.

In summer 2008, Mandvi started production on the indie film "7 to the Palace," a heartwarming New York-style Tandoori comedy, which he co-wrote, will produce and stars in. Mandvi plays "Samir," a talented cook who dreams of being a great French chef, but when he is forced to abandon his dream and run his father's Indian restaurant in Jackson Heights, his life is forever changed. Learning the alchemy of Indian cuisine from a mystical, larger than life immigrant cab driver, Samir manages to heal himself and his family, fall in love and turn a dreary, run down, greasy spoon restaurant into one of New York's most talked about eateries. "7 to the Palace" is about food, family, love, magic and New York.

Mandvi was recently seen in "Music and Lyrics" with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant. Other film credits include the title role in Merchant/Ivory's "The Mystic Masseur," "Spider-Man 2," "Freedomland," "The Understudy," "Eavesdrop," "The Siege," "Analyze This," "ABCD," "American Chai," "The War Within" and "Sorry Haters."

Other television credits include a recurring role on CBS's cult-hit "Jericho," as well as guest appearances on "Sex and the City," "Sleeper Cell," "The Sopranos," "The Bedford Diaries," "Oz," "CSI," "Law & Order" and "ER."

Mandvi is the recipient of the 1999 OBIE award for his critically acclaimed one-man show "Sakina's Restaurant." Variety called him "A likable and arresting storyteller who seasons his tale with a warming, infectious smile and an eagerness to please." His other New York stage credits include the 2002 Broadway revival of "Oklahoma!," "Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom," "Homebody/Kabul," "Suburbia," "Trudy Blue" and "Speak Truth to Power."

Mandvi currently resides in New York.

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