Directed by Paul Feig.
Starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Andy Garcia, Charles Dance, Michael Kenneth Williams, Cecily Strong, Neil Casey, Elizabeth Perkins, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts.
There have been strange paranormal sightings around New York. The Ghostbusters must find the pattern if they want to save the world.
Ghostbusters was always going to be a haunted film. As if the beloved 1984 original’s spectre wasn’t enough, the production was riddled with rumours of cast members clashing on set, the original movie’s director being locked out of the creative process, and a “disaster” of a script. I eagerly awaited a horror for all the wrong reasons.
The film is funny, just not funny enough. I laughed at least six times. Most of them were at Chris Hemsworth. He plays the Ghostbusters’ idiot receptionist Kevin.
They were going for Brick from Anchorman, but they got Brick from Anchorman 2. Kevin is often too dumb, and the act tires. Hemsworth plays the role well, but he’s no Steve Carrell.
I expected the reverse. I found myself laughing at parts I cringed at in the trailer. Context helps. Leslie Jones’ Patty isn’t just a stereotypical shouty black woman, as some have criticised. She does shout a lot. And she is black. But she brings a fundamental skill set to the team – she’s an avid non-fiction reader who knows a lot about the history of New York City; where old prisons used to execute inmates, which hotels are built on ancient Pilgrim sites. She’s like a paranormal tour guide.
Feig never quite knows how to handle McKinnon’s Jillian. She has flashes of comedic brilliance, but mostly falls flat. I don’t think it’s her fault. Jill seems to be one of those characters that ends up on the cutting room floor.
She’s joined by the film’s pacing. A lot of the jokes never get time to breathe. Surprisingly, there are quite a few good gags in there. But they’re diluted by the bad ones.
The second half is a lot worse than the first. That’s when Ghostbusters becomes a painfully generic action comedy. The fight sequences are incredibly dull. If you look hard enough, you can see the green screen in the actors’ dead-eye reactions.
A lesser writer would’ve called the action’s visual effects a ‘green scream’. A better writer wouldn’t have pointed that out.
I didn’t mind the CGI ghosts. A lot of other people did. I liked the design and colour scheme, probably because of a misguided affection for the 2002 Scooby Doo movie, to which I once took a girl I fancied. The trapped spirits in the big bad’s lair made me feel weird.
The references to the original made me feel weirder, though. Bill Murray doesn’t want to be there. There’s a strange scene where he asks what right the women have to call themselves Ghostbusters? It’s meant to mean: what supernatural evidence do you have to support your claims?! But it comes off as: what are you doing to my past? The whole exchange takes on a perverse second meaning.
Then there’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. In one scene, he falls on top of the Ghostbusters, crushing them with his weight – an onscreen manifestation of remakes struggling with their predecessors.
And the actual Ghostbusters logo, hideously come to life for the film’s final battle. The Ghostbusters shoot the monster’s dick. Even if these were innocent Easter Eggs, the alternate readings make for an oddly Freudian reboot.
But I wouldn’t focus on all this if the film worked at a more emotional level. That’s the true ghost in the celluloid.
The third act really fails from a jump in character relationships. Kevin suddenly wants to be a Ghostbuster, after previously showing no interest in anything. The team suddenly have a deep affection for him, despite no scenes of actual bonding. Abby, Erin, Jill and Patty are now best friends, but they were never shown to connect on a deeper level.
There is one moment. In the second act, Patty asks Erin how she met Abby. Back in school, the mean, old lady next door to Erin died. The next night she appeared at the foot of Erin’s bed. And the next night. And the next night. And every night for a whole year. But when Erin tried to get help, she got the opposite. Kids bullied, parents put her in therapy. Nobody believed Erin but Abby.
And therein lies the problem – it’s a depth that’s never revisited again, nor shared by any other characters. That’s a missed opportunity. Why is Patty trying to start up conversations with people she doesn’t know when we first meet her? Why is Abby so obsessed with finding proof of an afterlife? The script never had to be an emotional character piece, but the actors deserved more than caricature.
Feig should’ve done a Guardians of the Galaxy. A science fiction comedy with surprising depth. Maybe Patty’s trying to talk to people because she’s lonely; that’s why she’s drawn to the team. Maybe Abby wants to find ghosts because she lost her mother when she was young. Rocket wasn’t just a talking racoon. He was a tortured lab experiment with an inferiority complex. And because of those faults, you love him. You won’t love any of the characters in Ghostbusters.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★