Faced with an influx of paranormal entities, a group of women come together to combine their scientific knowledge and street smarts to save the city from the ghostly apparitions.
Director: Paul Feig
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Andy Garcia, Neil Casey, Cecily Strong
Run Time: 116 Minutes
Release Date: Out Now
We’ve all heard the criticisms. The naysayers who were adamant that Paul Feig was putting together a movie that’s only mission was to take the beloved original, rip it up in every conceivable way and then leave it hung out to dry along with our destroyed childhoods. How the main cast of four women were not a patch on the likes of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd and how the four females were going to aid in said ripping up of the beloved original and hanging out to dry. The level of abuse and comments online has been nothing short of sickening at times, oftentimes seemingly transcending what, at the end of the day, is just a film about a group of people who fight ghosts.
And while the old adage “any publicity is good publicity” could apply, given the level of hatred and anger aimed at this movie before its release did not bode well for a successful venture. However, I am happy to report, the fears and accusations levelled towards Feig’s movie are hugely wide of the mark. What is not so good, however, is that there are a large number of people that do allow themselves to be influenced by the opinions of others, and that will result in a lot of people not seeing this movie. For those in front of the camera – the stars – who did nothing to incite the level of hatred towards this film, that is a shame.
You see, this is a very good film. Despite the initial trailer causing some confusion over this movie’s place in the Ghostbusters history, and whether this was in fact a sequel, this is most definitely a reboot. And virtually a like for like, scene for scene reboot, at that. We get similar setup stories and similar locations for major set-pieces. Of course, given that the original is widely regarded as one of the greatest comedy films, it’s not a bad source material to take from. And Feig does well with his work. The scenes flow, they are well-acted, and the action never stops. Some of the writing does feel a little too ‘female-friendly’ at times, almost like it has been written purposefully as a barb against the misogynistic insults thrown at the movie and its stars in the lead-up to release.
That also applies to some of the writing when it comes to the male characters in the film; Chris Hemsworth’s dumb blonde receptionist Kevin, while getting the majority of the movie’s funniest lines, feels like a purposefully-written part as a counter to the clichéd dumb, blonde female receptionist trope that so many movies from years gone by have used. The main antagonist, hotel worker Rowan, also suffers from writing that seems to have been implemented purely as another method of displaying female superiority over inferior men. Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of strong female characters on the big-screen (something Marvel might finally get right with Captain Marvel and a continued focus on Black Widow and Scarlet Witch), but here it just feels a little too forced and that it is done more as a defensive position against the criticism levelled at the film.
Inevitably, the Busters themselves will always be compared to the original foursome, unfair as that may be. And while the four women do not – nor will ever – match the chemistry and charisma that Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson had, the new group do not fall by the wayside. The main reason being that despite the inevitable comparisons made, they never try to be the original group. While the setup stories may bear some similarities, the characters are different and the performances behind them – by and large – are very impressive. Wiig’s Erin Gilbert takes a natural lead, despite McCarthy seemingly being the lead actress in the film. Wiig is genuinely funny and endearing, a consistent quality she tends to display on screen. McCarthy, meanwhile, never reaches the levels of her co-stars, her lines and jokes feel flat and she stands out as the weak link of the four women. Leslie Jones, who suffered most from the abuse levelled at the film and cast leading up to (and after) release, fires back at the critics with a strong performance, despite the rather stereotypical character of Patty Tolan. The writing doesn’t do her any favours in general, with her position in the group seemingly only granted because she can provide a vehicle, and while Tolan’s story is that her extensive knowledge of the city can provide assistance to the other three Ghostbusters, this is disappointingly largely ignored except for when some exposition is required.
The star of the show is clearly McKinnon, however. Exuding fun, confidence and a level of crazy that the others were never going to be able to match, her Jillian Holtzmann is exactly the kind of kooky spark the film needs. Clearly designed to be the crazy scientist (or Peter Venkman) of the group, McKinnon takes this on board and adds her own brand of comedic timing to the role, and it is a joy to watch. On that same note, Chris Hemsworth shows an admirable willingness to put aside the tough guy Thor image that he has built over the last five years to play the dumb receptionist Kevin and while I have already commented on the weak and misguided writing of the character, I should add that Hemsworth himself excels in the role. Displaying a timing for comedy and delivery that I am sure will surprise many, he gets a far more advanced role as the receptionist than Annie Potts got in the original as Janine.
A word, too, about those cameos. Another bone of contention for the angry fans was that the stars of the original movie were being brought in for short appearances that weren’t under the guises of their famous characters. While it may have been fun to see Venkman and Ray Stantz pass the torch to Gilbert and Holtzmann, this movie had to be new, it could not be a sequel. So once the likes of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and even Sigourney Weaver were cast, it had to be as someone new. And it works, as well. Murray is always fun to watch, and he gets the biggest role out of all the returning names.
In the end, the bad press and criticism was always going to alter the opinions of some. Many will never watch the movie, sticking to their insistence that Feig and his chosen cast have taken the much-loved memory of the original and destroyed it. However, it is those people that are missing out. While it isn’t perfect – the final act battle is strangely absent of any real drama and tension – there is more than enough to warrant this being made and, with the appearance of the Ghost Corp logo at the beginning, this also possibly being the start of a franchise. There are plenty of nods to the original, and all of them are done in nothing more than a loving fashion. I guarantee that you will find yourself smiling every time.
Open your mind, forget the critics and the opinions, and just allow yourself to have fun. This movie provides it in spades.