I was fortunate enough to have been invited to an early screening of the new Ghostbusters by a film reviewer friend of mine, which is good because I didn’t find any of the trailers particularly compelling. I also didn’t have a problem with the all-female version of the franchise like many online ‘haters’ did. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy have some really great roles (although I’ve not seen Kate McKinnon or Leslie Jones in anything). I enjoyed director Paul Fieg’s recent films Spy and The Heat so I didn’t think there would be any big issues with this reboot. It’s been so long since I’ve watched the original films and I’ve therefore no emotional attachment to them. But even with a supposedly more impartial viewing of the film, how does it ghost?
Kristen Wiig is Erin Gilbert, a Doctor at Columbia University who is desperate to gain her tenure at the university. Her hopes of tenure are threatened when a book she co-wrote on the paranormal resurfaces, forcing her to confront her old friend and research partner Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) who has been studying the paranormal with oddball scientist, Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). When Gilbert is fired from the university following a viral video of her ‘gooey’ rant after witnessing a ghost, she teams up with Yates, Holtzmann and the street-savy Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) to become ‘the Ghostbusters’ – New York’s only hope from the nefarious plans of apocalyptic creeper, Rowan North (Neil Casey).
There are some elements in this film that really work. For example, nearly every scene with Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin is great. His completely clueless persona is responsible for the majority of the film’s major laughs (and thankfully they’re not all wasted on the trailers). I also liked Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann. She really looked like she was having a blast as a slightly emotionally distant yet wildly passionate scientist. Some of the special effects were also good, and were in line with the original Ghostbusters aesthetic. But it felt it just had more issues than things that I really liked.
There was something definitely ‘off’ regarding the pacing of the film – it felt like it really dragged at times. My film reviewer friend asked me after the film if I felt it was quite ‘joyless’ and I’d have to agree as that lack of joy made it drag. It felt like everything onscreen was meant to be like ‘Yeah! That’s funny and fun because x’, but it just didn’t quite come together. Often times the humour felt really forced and Feig’s brand of humour is very hit and miss here. This is quite a setback as Spy was hilarious. Even some of the logic is a ‘eh’ such as when the Ghostbusters realise the villain’s plan: they simply draw up a bunch of lines linking each of the recent paranormal occurrences and then a character goes “Oh yeah, we got a book with a similar pattern”, so they whip out the book and realise what his plan is. Such deus ex machina. Really bad stuff.
The worst parts of this film in my opinion were from the cameos by the original Ghostbusters cast themselves. Bill Murray’s cameo is the longest and feels completely on the nose. It feels so forced, like ‘Hey look! One of the old Ghostbusters!’ Dan Ackroyd’s cameo is a little better (as is Ernie Hudson’s) but they’re both a bit cringe. I think Rick Moranis is the only one who didn’t appear in a really roped in series of cameos.
Having said all of this: I really would like to see a sequel. I think that would truly determine whether or not this reboot was worth it. The cast is really good on paper and Paul Feig can do great comedy. There’s a lot of potential here for the new Ghostbusters and even though this movie was fairly lacklustre, I’d like to see more.
In the end, this new Ghostbusters is as good as it looks in the trailers.