A Completely Sane And Rational Review Of The New ‘Ghostbusters’
It must take a real cynic to not be won over by the charm of all these performers.
Look, we’re going to try and keep any reference to men’s rights activists, sexist internet trolls, whiney man-babies, or anything about that old chestnut of “women in comedy” to a minimum. There are already enough out there dissecting Ghostbusters through the prism of hate and negativity.
The Internet for the next few days pic.twitter.com/Nkrk0txytK
— Mike Tunison (@xmasape) July 10, 2016
I had such a good time with this movie that I don’t feel like subjecting myself to discussing conspiracy theories about Sony paying film critics to write positively (there’s far less money in film criticism than those dimwits seem to think) or IMDb users rating the movie a 1 out of 10, days before it has even been released to the public just because they can’t grasp that they’re no longer 14 years old despite Hollywood’s insistence on treating them that way.
No! I said we weren’t going to go there! Let’s move on.
“Don’t read the comments.”
We all know the plot of Ghostbusters wherein four unlikely heroes emerge to save New York City from paranormal disturbances. This new edition is a mix between a remake and a reboot with director Paul Feig – he did two of the best out-and-out comedies of the decade, Bridesmaids and Spy, as well as cult TV series Freaks and Geeks, so he’s got just as much chops as Ivan Reitman did – taking a lot of the 1984 original and repurposing it just enough so that it doesn’t feel like a carbon replica with no new ideas. So, yes, we get the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and we get Slimer (and Mrs Slimer because why should Pacman get a wife and not this hideous, green blob?), but Ghostbusters ’16 has its own new(-ish) story and its own comedic beats and rhythms to separate it from the past.
Our ‘busters are Erin (Kristen Wiig), Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), and Patty (Leslie Jones). As you may have heard, Erin, Abby, and Holtzmann are scientists, but Patty is not, which has caused alarm as her claim to ghostbusting fame is that she knows the city having worked for the city’s subway metro. Some commentators like Janessa E. Robinson in The Guardian even claimed that this incarnation of Ghostbusters was racist like its predecessor (Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddmore was not treated well by Aykroyd and Ramis’ script) and not feminist for all women as it purports.
Like much of the debate swirling around this movie, this is all a bit of a moot point once people actually view the finished product, because Patty – Jones, a striking on-screen presence, is unmistakably having a blast with the role – ultimately proves to be just as smart and important and resourceful as the (yes, white) quantum physics majors that surround her.
Who you gonna call? The cast of Saturday Night Live, apparently.
It cannot be overstated enough just how much the camaraderie of these four women makes this movie. Three of the four have sprung from Saturday Night Live (there is also Cicely Strong in a supporting role), and McCarthy has proven herself as SNL’s best recurring host as well as starring opposite Wiig in Bridesmaids (earning an Oscar nomination in the process). It’s obvious that the four work well together and know how use their physicality and voice to best deliver and amplify a line. It must be said that Ghostbusters ’16 has a far higher joke ratio than the original, playing as it does as much more of a broad comedy. This can be a hindrance when it comes to character and story, but it does mean that when a joke falls flat, which it occasionally does, the performers have already moved on to the next gag to really make it an issue.
And we have to mention the added dose of Chris Hemsworth (with his natural accent) as the Ghostbusters’ dopey assistant, Kevin, who gets several of the film’s silliest and purest laughs including a guffaw-inducing visual gag involving shirtless actor head shots and a saxophone. And be sure to stay throughout the closing credits which show the Hems putting his Dancing with the Stars moves to good practice.
Truly, it must take a real cynic to not be won over by the charm of all these performers. I understand the affection many have for Murray, Akroyd, and Ramis, but that was 32 years ago and in the now I found myself on the comedic wavelength of this new cast and found myself giggling like mad throughout the majority of its runtime. Occasional diversions to toilet humour notwithstanding, Feig’s talent with ensemble casts shines yet again with his actors filling the screen, allowed to interact in the frame in a way that comedies by Judd Apatow have forgotten about. McKinnon especially shines in her first major movie role, the MVP full of goofy pluck and outrageous physical humour that extends from her background mugging to her costumes. More than anyone else in the movie, she has taken her lead from Bill Murray in the original and turned it into a gonzo feast of inspired, weird comedy.
Ghosts in the Nostalgia Machine
Where the film disappoints the greatest is, somewhat ironically, in its obvious fan service to the original. Cameos by original cast members are especially distracting or simply unfunny (except for you Sigourney – we love you). This is especially so in the somewhat garbled third act, which ends the movie on a somewhat disappointing note, focused as it is on a similar sort of large-scale destruction that has plagued virtually every big budget superhero movie this year. Amid all the craziness – the hyper-coloured CGI here is actually very good, and the 3D is some of the best of recent years – these odes to 1984 feel like wastes of potential creativity that add nothing.
Ghostbusters was, after all, born out of modern franchise culture that feeds off of nostalgia and the never-ending need to bring long dormant brands back from the dead (pun unintended). It makes sense that Feig and his co-writer, Parks and Rec writer and producer Katie Dippold (who has a small role as a real estate agent), did this knowing full well that they would be walking a fine line of being referential to the original and needing to forge their own legacy. A post-credits sequence suggests they want a sequel. Sony have admitted as much. Future instalments could even improve, learning from the lessons of Ghostbusters II and no longer living in the shadow of expectations. Whether they get one will depend on whether this sort of wonderful moment is a harbinger for box office success.
The less said about the new theme song performed by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliot (thankfully almost non-existent in the final product), however, the better. Let us revel instead in this official j-pop remake of the Ray Parker Jr original instead. Much like the film, it is a delight.
Ghostbusters is in cinemas now.
Glenn Dunks is a freelance writer from Melbourne. He also works as an editor and a film festival programmer while tweeting too much at @glenndunks.