Review – Ghostbusters

There can’t be many films out there that arrive on the big screen with as much internet-fuelled ill-will as Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters.

Whilst not the car crash that many haters had hoped for or expected, Ghostbusters regretfully compromises itself by trying to be all things to all people - what a shame

Whilst not the car crash that many haters had hoped for or expected, Ghostbusters regretfully compromises itself by trying to be all things to all people – what a shame

Whilst 2014’s The Interview incrediby led to a diplomatic incident between the United States and North Korea, Feig can’t have imagined the seismic social media explosion that awaited him when he announced he would be directing the third installment in the Ghostbusters franchise – featuring (dun dun duuu…) an all-female cast.

Ivan Reitman’s massively successful 1984 original remains a much-loved touchstone in the lives of many a cinemagoer, but the unfiltered rage meted out to Feig and, later, the reboot’s core cast of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones came from a particularly ugly place.

Who ya' gonna call? That's right.

Who ya’ gonna call? That’s right.

Watching Ghostbusters, it becomes clear that, far from ignoring the rampant negativity of YouTubers with too much time on their hands, the film has instead chosen to embrace it.

Feig and Katie Dippold’s script features more than one reference to shallow comments left by internet trolls who can’t seem to get their heads around the concept of females bustin’ ghosts. Such an approach, whilst admirable, is also systematic of a film that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be.

Indeed, it could be argued that the film’s chief villain, Neil Casey’s Rowan North, is the embodiment of the nerdy, disgruntled misfit Feig and co perceive to be 2016 Ghostbusters‘ biggest hater. As it happens, Casey is actually pretty good in the part, although the spectral chaos he unleashes in the final act makes little or no sense.

Chris Hemsworth as nice-but-dim secretary Kevin Beckman in Ghostbusters

Chris Hemsworth as nice-but-dim secretary Kevin Beckman in Ghostbusters

The decision to feature cameos from the surviving members of the original Ghostbusters is a serious mis-step (Harold Ramis is saved from this on account of his being dead, although a bust of his head is a lovely touch), with Bill Murray looking bored as a flamboyantly dressed sceptic, while the film virtually grinds to halt to make way for Dan Ackroyd’s laboured cameo.

The film borrows liberally from Reitman’s original, with scientist Erin Gilbert (Wiig) stumbling onto taking down ghosts with the help of estranged friend and colleague Abby Yates (McCarthy) and live wire inventor Jillian Holtzman (McKinnon) – they are joined later by public transport worker and keen historian Patty Tolan (Jones).

Kate McKinnon gives a breakout turn in Ghostbusters

Kate McKinnon gives a breakout turn in Ghostbusters

Wiig and McCarthy are gifted comedians, but they are given little to get their teeth into here and it’s left largely to the excellent McKinnon to deliver some of the film’s best sight gags. Jones, meanwhile, does her best with what is a limited role and plays off nicely against her co-stars.

Alongside McKinnon, the film’s biggest revelation is Chris Hemsworth as their nice-but-dim secretary Kevin Beckman. His interview scene is hands down the funniest scene and Hemsworth gives an inspired performance brimming with physical humour, whether it be wearing glasses without the lenses, asking his colleagues which ridiculous headshot works best or enquiring as to their policy on bringing pets to work (wonderfully surreal).

The special effects have been accused by some, a little unfairly, as looking like something from Scooby Doo, although the multi-coloured ghosts wouldn’t necessarily look out of place in a film featuring the Mystery Machine gang. The appearance by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is pointless, but fun, whilst the cameo by Slimer (who has got a wife and kids now, seemingly) is a sop to the original and should have been consigned to the containment unit.

Slimer makes an unwelcome appearance in Ghostbusters

Slimer makes an unwelcome appearance in Ghostbusters

Slimer’s extended appearance takes place during a final act that is terribly edited (a sequence involving a group of soldiers and police who are frozen mid-disco move is baffling simply because the scene leading up to it was cut) and is devoid of any real threat. The Ghostbusters flee from the 10-storey high big bad ghoul, but quite clearly cause it serious distress with their proton packs, while the less said about the getting-sucked-into-another-dimension ending the better. Simply put, it doesn’t work.

There are glimpses of the film you suspect Feig originally had in the back of his mind, but it plays too safe and ends up the worse for it.

Whilst not the car crash that many haters had hoped for or expected, Ghostbusters regretfully compromises itself by trying to be all things to all people. What a shame.

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11 comments

  1. Stu · August 17, 2016

    I agree with everything you say here mate. Not terrible, but the film seems so unsure of itself and there are largely forgettable performances aside from McKinnon. Dull special effects, too, and the cameos are the worst.

    • Three Rows Back · August 28, 2016

      I get the impression that fairly early on they realised the cameos weren’t working but had already commited to them. Every time the film deviates away from itself it just grinds to a halt. Glad we’re on the same page mate.

  2. le0pard13 · August 17, 2016

    Seems like this is the year for overblown reactions and negative movie reviews. I’ve seen most of the films that have somehow met this threshold, and none of them were of the trainwreck variety. This included. Yes, it’s not perfect, but I didn’t feel like I wasted a ticket (granted, I’ll go for matinee pricing and any discount I qualify for these days). Some parts were quite entertaining…and I loved Sigourney Weaver’s cameo in this. Fine and quite fair look at this one, Mark.

    • Three Rows Back · August 28, 2016

      Hey mate; thanks for that. I felt that if this had had the courage of its convictions and been its own beast, instead of the misjudged compromise it ends up being, it could have been so much more. That said, it’s no trainwreck as you say – more a missed opportunity.

      • le0pard13 · August 28, 2016

        Probably the best summation I heard this summer about the film, Mark. 🙂

      • Three Rows Back · August 28, 2016

        Thanks buddy 🙂

  3. Wendell · August 19, 2016

    I like this a bit more, but very fair point about how safe this film plays it. And the final act, was botched.

    • Three Rows Back · August 28, 2016

      Yeah, that final act was all over the place. I’ve found this a lot over the past few summers – blockbusters don’t seem to be able to come up with a remotely satisfactory finale.

  4. ruth · August 24, 2016

    “Watching Ghostbusters, it becomes clear that, far from ignoring the rampant negativity of YouTubers with too much time on their hands, the film has instead chosen to embrace it.” That was the best part about this I thought, the way the funny ladies delivered the one liners was a hoot! But I didn’t care for the bombastic third act, but I think overall it was an ok film that I’m glad I took the time to see.

    • Three Rows Back · August 28, 2016

      Hey Ruth! It was certainly not the car wreck that many had hoped/expected it to be. I watched it again with my other half the other day and, I have to be honest, it doesn’t stand up very well to a rewatch. That said, I haven’t seen the original Ghostbusters in years so that might not stand up too well!

  5. Victor De Leon · October 23, 2016

    nice review! pretty fair on all levels. my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but that last act was indeed flawed. we had fun with what they had to give us (McKinnon was great) and that’s what counts in the end.

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