Call off the lynch mob and put away those proton packs because Ghostbusters isn’t a remake that you should be afraid of. Despite the trolling, the negative press and the somewhat biased IMDB reviews, Ghostbusters is a fun, family summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, and as expected, it is haunted by the nostalgic quality of the 1984 classic of the same name and ultimately, it inevitably finds itself wanting.
But things start so promisingly. In particular, the first 15-20 minutes are genuinely creepy and the film quickly sets the scene to explain both the birth of the Ghostbusters and the characters that make up the outfit. In fact, director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) does an awful lot to establish some depth to the story, be it to the back story of the characters, their base of operations or how they came to own the rather bizarre looking Ecto1. This is done to great effect but also covers up a rather tired and unoriginal plot in which a strange loner wants to destroy the world by opening up a vortex to release spirits from another dimension. Of course, only the Ghostbusters can stop him and as far as plot goes, that’s pretty much it.
Addressing the marshmallow man in the room, the furore surrounding the all-female cast is unjustified on every level. Reuniting Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy from Bridesmaids, Feig has put together a cast who have good chemistry and work together incredibly well. Predictably, Wiig is the main character the audience is meant to root for, whereas McCarthy provides the comic foil. This works and as mentioned, they’re given a backstory arguably better than that given to their counterparts in the original film. Importantly, this duo is funny and the film is littered with good humour, albeit few belly laughs. Obviously McCarthy’s humour is a different brand to Murray’s but it does work. Add to this the ridiculous secretary, played with real gusto by Chris Hemsworth and you have a film that is always trying to make its audience laugh. Yet ultimately, this cast have an impossible task. There was little chance that any cast, man or woman could compete with Bill Murray and Dan Akyroyd in their 80’s pomp. But importantly, this female cast will certainly give young female cinema-goers heroes to champion who aren’t simply something nice to look at.
However, just as much as we can celebrate Feig’s support for girl power, there are massive problems regarding both the casting and characterisation of the foursome that make up the Ghostbusters. Whilst Feig carves out a backstory and creates well rounded characters for his two main stars, both Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are left with scraps, becoming two-dimensional caricatures. In the case of McKinnon, this is a small mercy. Playing the Egon of the gang, she is incredibly annoying, be it with her strange-for-the-sake-of-being-strange steampunk image, or the awful dialogue she delivers in a cocksure manner. Yet the issue with Jones is far worse and incredibly disappointing. Whilst Feig should receive plaudits for going against the grain with his all-female casting, his use of Jones demonstrates at best lazy writing and at worst casual racism. Of the four members that make up the gang, three happen to be well-educated scientists. The fourth, the only black member, happens to be a subway worker that seemingly represents the large black American female stereotype. This feels incredibly uncomfortable and it’s sad that Jones suffers the same fate as Ernie Hudson who played Winston in the original film.
Another major issue is the distracting number of cameos that occur within the film. Neither are these particularly funny nor do they serve any purpose other than to pad out the overall run time. Worse still, they undermine this remake on a fundamental level. Whilst this is an enjoyable film that has been unfairly vilified, scenes with original cast members such as Murray and Akroyd do no favours and only make you hanker to see the original. Essentially, it feels like you’re paying for something, only for the seller to remind you of something much better after you’ve parted money. It’s both pretty insulting and a bizarre decision by Feig given that he wanted to take the franchise in a slightly new direction.
Whilst having numerous problems, much of the film is fun but unfortunately it is let down horrifically by the ending which inevitably climaxes in a CGI laden showdown with a countless number of ghosts. Problem is, the Ghostbusters never seem in any sense of jeopardy, taking down ghost after ghost like they’ve been doing it for years with both the accuracy and calmness of a crack sniper team. Far from the original film, despite what’s shown on screen, you never get the impression that the Ghostbusters are making do. They’re too slick and too well-tooled. Without any explanation or backstory, Mckinnon’s character can create any number of useful items, seemingly from nothing, providing an unlimited arsenal. It’s plot holes such as this that stop Ghostbusters being a much better film and it’s particularly disappointing given the attention to detail within the opening scenes.
All in all, this is a frustrating film that continues to find ways to let itself down when so many are already willing it to fail. But if you can put aside the original for just a few hours, this Ghostbusters is funny and fairly enjoyable. Unfortunately, it just can’t stand against the classic by which it will ultimately be measured. How forgiving you are of this will determine how much you enjoy yourself.
Reviewed by David Sanders