Director: Paul Feig
Village Roadshow Pictures/Columbia Pictures
The new Ghostbusters film is so terrible as to almost seem a joke – and if that were the case it would be at the level of humour to fit with the mess of a script. There’s nothing funny here at all, in a mostly ponderous often insulting film that stumbles along wanting to be respectful to the original Ghostbusters one moment and then trying to, well, make it on its own away from the first franchise too it ends up incapable of reaching either goal. We see in the early moments a bust of Spengler (Harold Ramis’ character from the original film, Ramis died in 2014) and it seems a nice touch. Why then do Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and Ernie Hudson all appear as characters completely unconnected to the original?
When Ackroyd’s cameo cab-driver announces that he “ain’t afraid of no ghost” it’s about as cloyingly self-referential and awkward as dialogue and film references can get. It feels phoned in and has a heavy weight to it.
Much of this film feels phoned in and is buckling under the weight of expectations. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig are the two leads that should offer the most promise, here they’re strangely muted, McCarthy particularly; oddly. They’re not playing their natural game – hemmed in by the appalling writing and thin character sketches. They don’t get to delight as they have so often on the big and small screen.
Leslie Jones’ involvement is even more awkward. In this powerful statement for women – four leads in a reboot – she is reduced to yelling loudly “oh, hell no”-like catch-cries that circle racial stereotype.
McCarthy’s character’s running joke is a dig at Asian food.
Chris Hemsworth is the eye-candy, a nice attempt at a subversion of the ditzy-blonde role; he’s their receptionist to ogle and (wo)manipulate. Unfortunately Wiig’s character is so in lust with him as to end up playing some version of the airhead herself, which feels particularly cruel since there was some aim for a nice riff – and statement even – here. It’s rendered useless by hack writing and lazy tropes.
But nothing is as horrific as Kate McKinnon’s TheatreSports-gone-mad head-scratchingly juvenile take on the Nutty Professor. As she mugs relentlessly, even when backgrounding, and stampedes across anyone else’s chance at acting, it seems her essential prep for this role was studying The Mask, Jim Carrey is her DeNiro or Pacino, her Mirren or Streep it seems.
So this Big Statement Feminist-angle Remake not only crushes the nostalgia around the first film rather than using it as a springboard, it reduces its four leads to either boring versions of what they’re capable of or over the top caricatures. They have all been better in films and shows where it wasn’t about a stacked female cast. Half of this team (McCarthy and Wiig) was infinitely better with the same director in a film that featured an all-star, mostly female cast.
So it’s mind-boggling.
The problems with the film compound – our villain is a nobody, and useless, uninteresting, charisma-less, the ghosts – even when they reference the original – are mean-spirited and angry, neither funny nor scary. The plot crawls. The world’s worst framing device is used to set the four women up together, Jones’ involvement still seems largely for the purposes of diversity. There’s no real link to why she connects with the other three, then the script leaves her largely out on her own. She panics a few times, and then a bit more Oh No You Di’n’t just for luck.
The whole thing is a bamboozling clusterfuck.
And I didn’t think I needed to say this but just to be clear: I don’t hold the original dear, I loved it as a kid I guess but I am not concerned with its legacy, I was happy to see a reboot if it worked. This didn’t. I think men’s groups are hideous creations and the outbreak of absurdity around the announcement of this film was embarrassing. Hopefully though, you’re allowed to not like his film and still be in support of the concept of it – I wanted to like a Ghostbusters film starring these actors. I think McKinnon is a revelation on Saturday Night Live, gifted and mesmerising. I don’t know that she’ll ever translate to the big screen though; it seems her manic energy works as an uplifting force in the context of live TV – she’s either a brilliant distraction when a skit is failing or she re-energises those around her. Here she was like the class clown – and apparently even harder to control.
Ghostbusters in 2016 didn’t need to happen but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have worked. It seems any response to the film might now be judged along gender lines and which side of “the argument” you fall – and that’s a shame. I am sure many unspeakable atrocities were threatened by morons on the internet but that doesn’t mean a sympathy-like is required to not be in agreement with those buffoons.