Every year seems to bring with it a movie that gains press and notoriety of the worst kind possible. 2016 was the turn of Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot, which seemed to make the cardinal sin of recasting everyone’s favourite team of spectre fighting funnymen with an all female team. It got a lot of backs up, but with Feig at the helm it somewhat made sense, strong and talented female casts are his bread and butter after all. But the haters hated, and a pretty disappointing first trailer only seemed to strengthen their resolve. I’m not saying being the most disliked trailer on Youtube is a true measure of a movie’s quality, but I personally thought it was a wrong foot forward, not being that funny and just doing a good job of marketing the film to any sort of audience. But, again, it was only a trailer, and I walked into my screening with my mind open as far as it could go, but sadly the 2016 model of Ghostbusters just didn’t click with me.
The story this time round is that Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) once wrote a book positing that ghosts do in fact exist. The pair parted after Erin pursued a career in concrete science, but when the book resurfaces, she is laughed out of her prestigious teaching position. When they actually encounter a real life spirit, they are emboldened in their beliefs, and teaming with eccentric nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and street wise Subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) form the Ghostbusters to rid New York City of pesky apparitions. And it’s a good thing that they did, as they stumble on a plot by outcast Rowan (Neil Casey) to plunge the world into a ghost filled apocalypse.
Now, the original Ghostbusters is deservedly deemed a classic, and to Feig’s credit he doesn’t just sweep it out of the way in favour of his new vision. This was evident from the movie’s marketing campaign and the fact that most the original cast were signed on for cameos. Respect is paid to what came before, but after some nice nods (including a heart warming moment remembering the late, great Harold Ramis) the reverence becomes overkill, and the movie goes out of it’s way to remind you of the original. We have four different versions of the famous theme song, the cameos serve no purpose other than to shoehorn in Bill Murray and the rest of the gang, and the Ghostbusters logo takes far too much prominence in proceedings. All it’s missing is someone holding a twinkie in the foreground of one shot, and every bas would have been covered. You can’t enjoy something new and appreciate what it has to offer if you are constantly being asked to remember what came before.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the only problem here. Being reminded of the deadpan spirit of the original exposes how different in tone and feel this new version is. Now, different isn’t always a bad thing, but the humour is so broad here and the jokes come at you with such speed, that more miss the mark than hit it. A ghost getting shot in the crotch by a proton beam I think is the perfect way to sum up the humour on offer here. A straight woman was sorely needed to ground the group, but everyone is fighting over each other to deliver a quip or set up a gag that it becomes tiring. There is some gems (including a scene where Feig brilliantly references then shuts down the Internet haters solely concerned with the team’s gender) in there, but for every joke that works, you have to sit through ten that don’t. The same rings through for the story, with Rowan’s convoluted master plan butting into some much needed character development and team bonding. Considering the talent involved, and all four of these women are extremely talented comediennes, they never get a chance to really shine. Wiig and McCarthy are fine as they have honed what their on screen presence over the years, but they don’t really offer anything we haven’t seen from them before. Jones’ brash loud mouth should grate on you, but she’s pretty charming at the end of the day. McKinnon goes overboard with the quirkiness as Holtzmann, and by the end of the movie I wanted to shout at the screen “we get it!! You’re weird”. Casting Chris Hemsworth as the dumb, eye candy receptionist really lets the man we all know as Thor show off his considerable comedy chops, but after his first scene, the one not character begins to wear on you.
The narrative follows a path very familiar to those who eat up their blockbusters like candy, and you will have connected all the dots long before the main character have. The plot really just adds up to the team stumbling on Rowan’s plan one second too late to stop it time and again, and after taking it’s time in the first and second acts, it speeds towards the end credits without really developing the final showdown properly. Things just sort of happen for the sake of happening, and while the CG filled finale does offer some exciting moments, it is done with far too quickly and wrapped up with a pretty weak joke.
A end credit scene teases further adventures with a much more concrete connection to the original, and who knows, a sequel not infatuated with the past may really let the concept shine in this day and age. But as it is weak rehash of what came before that is more concerned with reminding you of what came before than focusing on what it is now.