Director : Paul Feig
Year Of Release : 2016
Principal Cast : Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, Neil Casey, Charles Dance, Michael K Williams, Matt Walsh, Ed Begley Jr, Steve Higgins.
Approx Running Time : 133 Minutes
Synopsis: Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.
Pre-hated into oblivion by fans of the original franchise, to say nothing of outraged geeks around the world, 2016’s Ghostbusters film was one actually despised from its very inception. Treading over the supposedly sacred memory of Ivan Reitman’s 1984 mega-comedy starring Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, Paul Feig’s by-committee manufactured scare fest goes the gender-swap route, boasts impressive visual effects, and isn’t funny. Instead of the wry, sarcastic comedy of Bill Murray and 80’s hilarity, we get lots and lots of shouting. Instead of clever writing and a mystery and subplots with heft and genuine scares, we get innuendo, a constant gag about women’s objectification of men (as if that’s funnier than the reverse) and ghosts that look more like wet Plasticine and silly goo than actual apparitions. Ghostbusters‘ 2016 reboot is basically a steaming pile of crap.
Sorry, did I go too early with that summation? Well, let me extrapolate that out for you. Kristen Wiig and comedic death-roll Melissa McCarthy, easily the least funny woman with a career on the big screen, play scientists Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, whose past catches up with them when they are caught up in weird ghost sightings across New York City. Teaming up with Abby’s partner in research, Jill Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), who builds the women some nifty ghost-wrangling and containment devices, as well as former MTA officer Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), the “Ghostbusters” are patronised by the city’s Mayor’s office (Andy Garcia and Cecily Strong) when local nutter Rowan North (Neil Casey) unleashes a vaporous hell upon Earth thanks to his constant belittling by co-workers. As the ghostly apparitions wreak havoc on the city, only the four women can face down the end of the world.
Look, I know I wrote a while back that I’d never watch this film, and I resisted as long as I could. But the same feeling you get when you slow down past a car wreck came over me when I saw this one up for watching, so I clicked the rent button and now here we are. Dammit. Ghostbusters isn’t a great film. It’s acceptable, in most respects, and as a “crowd-pleaser” it will certainly deliver several moments of communal enjoyment. But watching it flat, by myself, without alcohol or popcorn or even my Twitter open to distract me, Ghostbusters made me yawn more than it gave me chills. It’s a loud, obnoxious slap-in-the-face film for people to endure, rather than enjoy, and it certainly doesn’t have the longevity its predecessor has laid claim to.
Before ripping into the issues I had with this ugly scab of a film, allow me to admit a level of bias (and if you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably guessed what I’m about to say): I cannot stand that McCarthy thing. As an actress, her on-screen persona grates with the friction of sticking your penis in a cheese grater and masturbating without protection. My detestation of McCarthy is gender-swap neautral to the same level I despise Adam Sandler, a human being I believe to have struck a deal with Satan himself in order to further a career of dick, fart and poo jokes. She’s shamefully one-note, lacking even competent comedic delivery and usually resorting to non-sequiturs, verbal asides and asinine slapstick in a vain attempt to be funny. Imagine my la-de-da surprise when her name came across the casting announcements for this all-girl CTRL-ALT-DEL of the famous franchise, a franchise I hold dear to my heart.
In all honesty, Ghostbusters was almost certainly going to be remade at some point. It’s too iconic a franchise not to be; the main question was who would be in it, and how much of an update would it need? Did we really want a geriatric edition featuring the elderly Murray, Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson, zimmer-framing it about New York City snarking at ghosts and hot women? But there’s money to be made in nostalgia, and once Harold Ramis passed away there was almost an inevitability that a new film wouldn’t be so much a sequel as it would a reboot. And here we are. 2016, dealing with a shouty, screamy Ghostbusters film that induces a headache.
The writing is borderline awful, although I suspect the talents of Kate Dipold and Paul Feig (who also directs) were no match for the weight of expectation encumbering them. Ghostbusters has a very specific set of parameters that need to be honoured, and in truth Feig does honour them, but the tips-o-the-hat to the franchise’s glory days and original cast (Dan Aykroyd’s is the best, while Bill Murray’s is absolutely cringe-worthy and awful) never resound with the inspiration befitting such momentous titans of cinema. McCarthy’s patter with comedic alumni Kristen Wiig hovers around competent before swaying into annoying, while the less said about Leslie Jones’ screeching pantomime performance of a human being the better. Kate McKinnon provides the film’s only genuine laughs as Holtzmann, but given the role is Egon Spengler amped up to eleven and then some, the bar is set exceptionally low.
Then there’s the conceit of casting Chris Hemsworth as the dumber-than-a-box-of-crayons receptionist, Kevin. Disregarding the gender-swap “issue” many people had, Hemsworth is actually a pretty funny guy when you get to know him (don’t you know, all us Aussies know each other?) but he’s ill-cast in this movie. Hot and brainless is funny if you play it right, but Ghostbusters does so too often and with too broad an edge to the funny, making it feel more awkward than chuckle-inducing. Hemsworth is game for a giggle, but there’s a vague sexual ineptness at play that doesn’t work like it ought to. I guess had an all-male film cast a hot woman to be brainless in the role there’d be riots in the streets, but when eye-candy Hemsworth comes along all is forgiven. Yup, the reverse-misogyny is real, folks.
I questioned in my review of Spy here whether Paul Feig would make a better straight-up action director than he would a comedy film director, because when he’s handling the widescreen action and thrills Ghostbusters offers, the film actually improves. His command of the film’s scope and scale are impressive indeed, as gigantic apparitions lumber through Manhattan – including, I might add, a replacement for the original film’s Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in the living embodiment of the franchise’s No Ghost logo, which has to be one of the stupidest meta things I’ve seen in a film this year – and the visual effects of the proton weaponry are dynamite. Stranger still, the ghosts lack cohesive heft, a decidedly “animated” green-screen fakery that never quite gels with the live action. The CG guys deserve a pay raise making the destruction of central New York City look appreciably realistic, but the ghosts themselves don’t strike me as particularly horrifying, scary, or believable. Heh.
If I wanted to listen to women shout at me for two hours I’d tell my wife I liked her sister better. As it stands, Ghostbusters offers cursory enjoyment but lacks both desire and meaning to extrapolate the awe and wonder of the original films’ largesse. About midway through the film you kinda get the sense that it’s been made by a committee out the back, designed to maximise spin-off potential, sequel potential, and Happy Meal potential. Then the sinking feeling of inadequate plotting, characters we care nought about, and a central villainous premise that feels like a shitty episode of Doctor Who, just collapses the film in on itself. With an abominable soundtrack of pop-ready radio riffs and bombastic recreation of Ray Parker Jr’s iconic theme tune, as well as McCarthy’s gormless visage threatening to suck out the life essence of all who gaze upon it, Ghostbusters is a shiny lick of paint on a franchise they should have just left alone at worst, or spent considerably more time on at best.