Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Andy Garcia, Charles Dance
Plot: A college professor (Wiig) one year away from tenure tries to escape her paranormal studying origins, but when ghosts begin to appear over the city, it might not be that easy.
Before we begin this review, let me start with a memory that struck me on the weeks leading up to the cinematic release of the 2016 Ghostbuster reboot, refitted with a total gender swap in terms of the lead characters. In fact, the memory actually revolves around the Force Awakens, but the point still stands in the case of Ghostbusters. While eating at a restaurant, I saw a group of children in fancy dress on their way to a party. The fancy dress was movie-themed, a lot of them dressed as Star Wars characters. One young girl proudly boasted the garb of Rey, the awesome female hero to the latest Star Wars movie. It struck me that girls never had this figure before, at least not in total mainstream cinema. Girls, when playing Star Wars, were subjected to the single female character on offer, and while Carrie Fisher’s steely princess was a fantastic creation, she was still just that: a princess. One that needs to be rescued and defended by her two male heroes, the figurehead of a Jedi rising and a swash-buckling space pirate. Girls never got to be the space pirate. Of course, that is a load of nonsense, but in the heads of children, gender politics aren’t as fluid or open to discussion. Girls had to play the girl characters, otherwise the whole game was ruined. Star Wars understood that, so gave the girls a cool character to call their own. So, in conclusion, yes, I totally believe there is a place in the world for a female-driven Ghostbusters movie. In fact, I think it isn’t just a good idea, but an essential one.
Therefore, as Paul Feig opens up his own brand of Ghostbusters mayhem and it turns out, that despite the internet’s biased disdain, it is a solid example of entertaining movie-making, there are no complaints from me. The best thing about the Ghostbusters movie is that, other than a few, probably necessary given the hate war online, in-jokes at internet trolls, the female cast stops being a gimmick very quickly. In fact, it is so busy delivering exposition, action and bountiful amounts of jokes that it doesn’t really have time to truly reference the fact that the leads have switched to women. The characters simply are female now; it’s the audience’s job to get over it and enjoy the film. The movie struggles in other areas, true, namely the ‘been here, done that’ feel that is inevitable with these kind of reboots. As the four characters slowly knit together to become an unit, while the banter is world’s away from the original team’s, the motions are the same. Thrown out of their jobs for studying ‘fake science’, renting their own building to start out their ghostbusting careers… Feig awkwardly rushes through certain acts, knowing there is no way not to sort of copy the original’s. The original Ghostbuster is better, simply for being there first. Feig also feels the need to make his comedy a little broader, and more in-your-face. Bill Murray won over the audience with his subtle charms, while here we have outrageous comedy and slapstick gags. Slimer steals the ghostbuster car. Melissa McCarthy is thrown ten feet in the air, learning how to use a new weapon. Anything said or done by Kate McKinnon. Feig definitely brings the Ghostbuster into his comfort zone, adding the slice of comedy he is used to directing. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, in fact giving the reboot its own identity. The last thing we want is for Feig to make his version any more like the original, where the story is so constricted by what came before. Yes, maybe the humour isn’t as clever, but it is constant. And, more importantly, works. Kristen Wiig being around dopey receptionist, Chris Hemsworth, is a sure-fire way to get me laughing. The set-pieces in this film are also bigger and better, Feig knowing that he has a weapon in the improved cinematic technology, the 80s movie didn’t have access to. This means that the finale is allowed to be a gloriously over-the-top blockbuster spectacle, which while low on stakes (ghosts turn into Stormtrooper levels of cannon fodder in the last act), is high on thrills.
The cast are having a ball in the kind of roles they, sadly, probably won’t get again. Unless McCarthy teams up with Feig in a Spy-like adventure again, comediennes such as the four on display here, don’t get to dip their toe in the action pond too often. However, in many regards, free of the male misogyny of most action flicks, now these four have probably landed the kind of role that most actresses in the action genre are getting envious for. Complete with revamped ghostbusting gear that definitely has scaled up from the original, the leads tear into this material with both a sense of excitement and probably with quite a few points to prove. Wiig arguably has the hardest job, leading the gang, while also standing in the shoes of the beloved Bill Murray. The trick she, and all of the characters here, go for, is not doing an impression, but developing a brand new character. Just because this is a Ghostbusters movie doesn’t mean that Wiig has to be Dr. Venkman. Her character has her own origin story, own motivations, own style of humour. Besides, just as adding a sense of Murray into his character made Bill Murray’s role so great, Wiig adds a touch of her own charisma to bring out the highlights of her comedy. Besides, it would be a shame to have a talented actress like Wiig and not have her tried and tested talent shine through. McCarthy is essentially Melissa McCarthy once again, but, as ever with her latest, and best, comedies, not playing to her appearance. Not only does this Ghostbusters roll with the fact it has female characters rather than male, it also refreshingly just ignores the fact that McCarthy is a larger woman. Why does that need to be referenced in every film she does? McCarthy gets to shake off the easy joke to make and instead charms with her comic timing and sharp sense of humour. Leslie Jones, if we were to insist comparing heavily to the original character roster, has the easiest job, because her male counterpart, Ernie Hudson, didn’t actually have to much to do. Feig gives Jones a much more dimensional character, questioning why she is the only non-scientist in the team and what dynamic she brings to the group. Finally there is Kate McKinnon, who will be the Marmite factor in this film. She is totally barmy, a brainy oddball, breaking into dance routines in the lab, dryly quipping her way through terrifying scenarios and making first contact with a dangerous ghost while eating crisps. At first, she might come across as a total misfire, but she does grow on the audience. This suggests a second watch might make her become a fan favourite. More importantly, the four of them work well as an ensemble, bouncing gags off of each other in a way that Judd Apatow would be proud of.
So, in conclusion, internet, you were wrong. Again.
Final Verdict: Less polished than the original, but far from a disaster. In fact, for the whole running time, it was downright entertaining.