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.
A group of scientists team up to battle paranormal entities that are appearing all our New York.
Even though I was one of the large (record-breaking) number of people who ‘disliked’ this film’s first theatrical trailer when it appeared on YouTube, I can assure you it was not for misogynistic reasons. When this project was announced, the dread I felt wasn’t because it was a female-driven reboot, it was because I love the 1984 original so much I would have been against anyone remaking it, full stop – I’ll admit, the fact that it was being made by the team behind Bridesmaids (which, along with Frozen, gets my vote for most overrated film of the century so far) didn’t help. Don’t get me wrong, there are loads of funny women working in TV and in Hollywood at the moment (Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Sofia Vergara, Anna Faris, Emma Stone and Jane Lynch, to name but a few), I just don’t think Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are among them – I find Wiig’s broken-cadence delivery very tiresome, and McCarthy often confuses being ‘loud and outrageous’ with being funny. I went into the cinema prepared (almost determined) to hate this film, when something very strange happened … I actually didn’t.
The plot has a similar arc to the original, but with a pleasing amount of twists – Erin Gilbert (Wiig) is a college professor who loses her job when she reluctantly investigates a ghost sighting at an old manor house with her former friend and colleague Abby Yates (McCarthy) and her eccentric engineer partner Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). When there are more sightings reported across Manhattan, they decide to band together to study and catch (or ‘bust’) the ghosts. They are soon joined by street-smart subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) and hot-but-dim secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). When they try to warn the mayor that a disgruntled hotel bellhop (Neil Casey) is planning to open a portal to a ghostly dimension, they are promptly discredited and shut down, only to be called into action again when it turns out they were right and New York is flooded with ghouls.
This opinion won’t do much to alter the views of those who think that everyone against this film is anti-women, but it’s sadly ironic that the stand-out cast member in this female-centric reboot is a man – Chris Hemsworth is a comedic revelation (this film will do for him what the Jump Street movies did for Channing Tatum). Almost every single thing he says and does in this film is pure comedy gold, and although they each have their stand-out lines and moments, the same cannot be said about the female cast. Wiig’s character is always insecure and/or awkward, and McKinnon feels she needs to constantly exaggerate and contort her face, voice or posture so that we never forget she’s the ‘strange’ one of the group (I’d much rather her character had been played by her funnier doppelganger Elizabeth Banks). McCarthy plays a relatively subdued role (like she did in her and director Paul Feig’s previous film Spy, which I was also surprised I didn’t dislike), and this helps greatly when she has to carry the bulk of the film’s emotional and expositional baggage – although her plummy voice occasionally grates. Leslie Jones was done a great disservice by the trailers, which seemed to cherry-pick the few moments in the film when she acts stereotypically hysterical – her character is actually the most endearing and relatable, and she also bags one of the film’s best lines (when passing a cupboard full of creepy-looking mannequins, she remarks “Room full of nightmares? I ain’t going in there!”)
As was promised during production, all of the original main cast (except for Harold Ramis who passed away, and Rick Moranis who declined) make cameos in this film, and they’re all either bizarre (Sigourney Weaver as a scientist) or pointless (Annie Potts as a hotel receptionist). None of them look too thrilled to be there, particularly Bill Murray – although, in fairness, I genuinely can’t remember the last role he played with enthusiasm. Their inclusion reminded me of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s version of Starsky & Hutch, and that’s actually the best reference I can think of for the mood this film seems to be going for – a comedy that’s a reboot-slash-parody-slash-homage. Although I despair at the amount of reboots, remakes and belated sequels being churned out by Hollywood these days (the constant wink-wink-meta-ironic-referencing makes me yearn for anything original) with comedies it’s slightly less bothersome, because it’s all meant to be in good fun anyway – all I ask is that it be funny!
People forget that the original Ghostbusters was a comedy-horror, complete with an eerie 80s score and some genuinely terrifying scenes (remember when Dana’s chair sprouted demon arms and dragged her screaming into the kitchen?). Apart from a couple of spooky ghost designs (the innocent-looking ghost from their logo ingeniously morphs into a giant white Oogie-Boogie man) this reboot is firmly a comedy. Some of the early dialogue scenes between the girls suffer from the same static editing that blights all Apatow-influenced improv-fests, but when the story kicks in and the cast and director find their groove, the film starts to become enjoyable. The score and the CGI are standard but effective, and unlike the original, there is no romantic sub-plot (unless you count Wiig’s character drooling over Kevin). I have to admit, while I still wish the original films had been left alone, the wisest decision they made with this reboot was to have all new characters, rather than simply having female versions of Venkman, Stanz, Spengler and Zeddemore (or having them be their daughters or nieces).
The final line before the end credits pretty much summed up the film for me – “Not terrible. Not terrible at all”. I was genuinely torn between giving this movie two or three stars – the inelegant sequel-baiting end credits sting severely tempted me to go with two, but I’m giving it three because (a) it wasn’t the heartbreaking travesty I thought it would be, and (b) because of Chris Hemsworth (God of Thunder, and now, comedy!)
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★