Ghostbusters – Film Review

Director: Paul Feig

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth

Release Date: Out Now

The Ghostbusters reboot is probably the most reviled Hollywood product since Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

Between a frosty reception to the trailer and fan purists refusing to acknowledge a Ghostbusting team without Bill Murray, the cast and crew have also had to deal with a never-ending wave of ‘Meninist’ rants and abuse since the concept was revealed.
For those who opted to keep an open mind however, it is overwhelmingly gratifying to say that…. Well, actually, it’s pretty damn good!

Paul Feig uses the original narrative as his clay, forming a story made from the same materials but with a few twists and turns. This is encapsulated in a prologue that sticks very closely to the library haunting sequence, but with a handful of key changes. There are respectful nods throughout and, on occasion, he plays it a little too safe by sticking closely to the original’s story.
But this is still a Paul Feig movie, rife with hilarious supporting characters and at its best when it acknowledges that.

When you get down to it, Ghostbusters is not a million miles away from spooky Bridesmaids.

It’s not without its problems though, just to get that out of the way.
The reboot, by definition, simply isn’t as original as the 1984 film was. The plot, though altered, is still very familiar and nothing altogether special. It’s preoccupied with paying homage to the original, and though these are often well implemented, they rarely escalate past a neat cameo or revamped set-piece. The key risk was in the casting and little else.

The villains are the weak aspect of the film. These CGI ghosts don’t have the same charm as their puppet/make-up clad predecessors and few of them really stand out. Slimer does make a welcome return and there is a very neat throwback during a deathly parade, but most of the other ghosts are just Rent-A-Ghouls that could have been imported from any fantasy movie in recent years.
Disney’s The Haunted Mansion comes to mind, oddly enough.

What hurts most is the fact that the charismatic main villain is mishandled. He has some great dialogue to work with, and brings a sweet metanarrative aspect to the final act, but his actual identity is loosely defined.
As a result, he doesn’t come across as a Big Bad, but instead just the Biggest of a Bad bunch. He’s effectively the Oddjob or Nick Nack of the spectral realm. This affects the pacing of the film. Whereas the original built in a crescendo towards its final act, finishing on a ‘literal’ marshmallow climax all over its stars, the reboot is happy to coast along at a smooth and level pace, with all aboard just laughing at the scenery.

This is typical of Paul Feig’s work and, to his credit, it doesn’t break the film. It simply sets a different tone. The comedy/fantasy seesaw has leaned noticeably in favour of comedy and is enforced admirably by his cast.

Jill (McKinnon) is the undeniable highlight, putting a hysterically comic spin on every line she can get away with. Her Saturday Night Live roots are readily apparent as it is all too easy to believe she improvised everything herself. Filling the ‘Egon’ role as nuclear engineer, she isn’t integral to the plot.
This comes as a relief because everything she does, she does for kicks. Allowing her to enjoy that, to sing to ghosts before catching them and to be slightly pervy with the other ‘busters, is a great boon to the film and, again, Feig seems aware of this. Rarely a minute goes by where she doesn’t inject a bit of her own psychotic humour into the proceedings.

Conversely, Patty (Jones) fulfils a similar role, but is granted less freedom. She has moments to shine, but many of her gags fall flat. Her saving grace is the fact that she has such good chemistry with her co-stars, particularly Kinnon.
In terms of race, she is also problematic. As with Ernie Hudson in the original film, hers is the only character who is not an accomplished academic. The film takes steps to fix this as the film progresses, but it feels like something that could have been avoided entirely by switching the roles around a bit.

The emotional core lies with Erin (Wiig) and Abby (McCarthy), two childhood friends reunited by financial necessity. Their characters will be very familiar to fans of Feig and while that might be good news for some, there is a possibility it might irk others. McCarthy in particular is operating within her comfort zone, getting casual laughs but not much else.
One thing the film lacks is a degree of tension between these two characters. One or two later scenes in the film are practically begging for it. They scream resolution for a conflict that never occurred.

It’s likely this is something that was shot for the film, but never made it into the final cut. There certainly is evidence of last minute editing, but not in a bad way. One delicious scene sees a very sly mockery of online haters and their sexist intolerance, and the cast embrace it with glee.
Feig did not forget that this is a comedy primarily, but it is a reactionary comedy.
Just as the original ended with a marshmallow climax all over its cast members, a very male-centric gag, this film ends with an obvious but no less appropriate reaction to that, aimed squarely at the main antagonist. Who, lest we forget, is very meta at this point.
It’s a feminist film, and that informs key segments of the plot, but it isn’t intrusive.

And embodying that perfectly is Kevin, the almost divinely idiotic receptionist played by dreamy sexpot Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth steals every single scene he is in with the type of whip-smart line delivery that is reminiscent of the Marx brothers. Bringing ‘stupid’ to a whole new level, his interview for the job feels like it was ripped straight from the audition tapes and should probably not be watched by anyone with a heart condition.
He never relents with the laughs yet is consistently reminding us that he is an objectified male, surrounded by a four strong-willed and capable women, none of whom are invested in him emotionally.

Ghostbusters isn’t better than the original by merit of it being a very different film. It pays respectful homage while delivering a breezily entertaining film with comedy masterclasses from McKinnon and Hemsworth especially.
Even getting by on its own merits was always going to be a challenge, but they came, they saw and they kicked its ass!

Score: 4/5
Written by Stephen Hill

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