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
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.
It is completely ridiculous that the gender politics controversy surrounding Paul Feig’s (Spy, The Heat, and Bridesmaids) Ghostbusters reboot has spiraled out of control to the point where I must begin my review by saying up front that while I do not particularly think this film is great, I am not misogynistic or sexist. Some of my most highly praised movies of last year here starred women (Brie Larson gave the best acting achievement of 2015 in the emotionally charged Room, Emily Blunt was a strong presence in the narcotics thriller Sicario, and I even enjoyed Melissa McCarthy in last year’s action comedy Spy). Furthermore, some of the best movies of all time future women being complete badasses, whether it be Sigourney Weaver in Aliens or Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I also very enjoy watching this little show you probably have never heard of called Game of Thrones, and yes, Emilia Clarke and her dragons are a powerhouse spectacle to behold.
With all of this preamble out of the way, Ghostbusters is admittedly definitely not the dumpster fire disaster most expected it would be going into it based on the horrendous trailers. For starters, it was immediately refreshing knowing that Patty (Leslie Jones) is not just a one-note stereotypical loudmouth black woman, but a loudmouth black woman that contributes to the group with a working knowledge of the subway system and some interesting history of various old buildings around Manhattan. Is her character great? No, there is practically no character development at all, but it could have been so much worse.
Speaking of characters, that is the primary flaw with this new take on Ghostbusters. Of the four women, only Erin (Kristen Wiig) actually feels like a person that has motivations, a backstory, and some sort of transformation throughout the proceedings of the film. Even though it isn’t explored to the amount of length necessary (if it was, a certain part during the final battle would have felt a lot more emotional instead of par for the course in Hollywood blockbusters), it is something, while the other three ladies basically get nothing. We know Abby (Melissa McCarthy) is a childhood friend of Erin, and even less about the characters played by Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.
Kate McKinnon in particular gives one of the most obnoxious performances of the year, going way too far over the top with her bizarre and abnormal personality. She is constantly making strange facial expressions, talking with far too much annoyingly complicated paranormal technical jargon that probably makes no sense, and is the literal definition of photo-bombing an entire movie. Early on the girls spot their first ghost, to which the camera cuts to Kate McKinnon randomly eating from a can of Pringles. On one hand, it is just very stupid product placement from Sony, and on the other hand you are just left screaming inside your head mentally wondering why she is eating chips and wondering where she even got them from in a span of five seconds.
None of this is meant to be a knock on the acting capabilities of Kate McKinnon, because I don’t think she is necessarily to blame at all. The first few times she acts weird is most definitely endearing, and it is evident that she knows how to portray the thin character she is given, but the script and possible impromptu nature of shooting accidentally goes overboard, when less would have been more from this performance. However, for all the bashing I kind of just did, I will admit that she has by far the most entertaining action sequence of the movie.
Also, this will come as a surprise to literally no one, but Melissa McCarthy essentially plays Melissa McCarthy. She yells a lot, talks back to everyone she comes in contact with, complains about her fast food orders, and somewhat feels out of place. To be fair, everyone feels somewhat out of place considering all of the characters are so wildly different from one another that they never really come together in a way that gives them chemistry as a cohesive unit.
Now let’s get to the other heavy flaw, which is the fact that the dimwitted receptionist played by Chris Hemsworth that the women hire (it’s also worth noting that they do this just because of his good looks and beefed up body full of muscle) steals the show. And yes, I am aware that the very thought of that is going to send in the misogynistic hate brigade, but I don’t care, because some of his lines are so stupid and brilliantly delivered that he made me laugh more than anything in the movie. He also actually has more chemistry with the Ghostbusters than the actual Ghostbusters do with each other.
Anyway, the special effects and designs of the ghosts are a bit of an uninspired mess and not particularly engaging to look at. It is nice that the colors chosen are typically bright, but the designs themselves are lacking, not necessarily coming across as imaginative or even somewhat frightening as some of the apparitions in the original film. It’s all just kind of there, and not even a cameo from Slimer is enough to make their presence fun. What I will say is that I actually didn’t mind the idea for the final entity to defeat. However, the actual villain of the movie is a complete waste of time and one of the most unmemorable villains of the year. I almost wish the movie didn’t even have a villain, and just featured horribly rendered ghosts. Many of the citywide large-scale battles also contain numerous composition shots depicting green-screen plain in sight, but it is somewhat forgivable considering that director Paul Feig isn’t really experienced yet with handling special effects heavy blockbusters of this caliber.
Ghostbusters also does not contain a great deal of misandry at all. If there was one fear more terrifying than the rest going into the movie, it is that it was actually going to be two hours of jokes hating on and degrading men for no real reason other than the social justice warrior craze that fuels the Internet today. The truth is that the presentation and characters here are more about female empowerment rather than sticking it to the man. Yes, men in the movie are either ridiculously stupid or holding the women back, but it feels more like coincidence than done solely to anger men. I still however do believe that an inter-gender team would have been most interesting.
What does mitigate Ghostbusters from being flat-out terrible is that although structurally the narrative is a mess, and it doesn’t really feel like a Ghostbusters movie, Paul Feig has a decent handle on comedy, so if nothing else, the movie is a decent experience in the style of humor you would expect from him. There are quite a few funny moments and hilarious pieces of dialogue, but unfortunately none of it comes together to form a movie that makes this a worthy franchise reboot.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★