(Originally posted 14th July 2016)
I was probably the most optimistic member of Diminishing Returns when it came to the new Ghostbusters film. I remained optimistic that the talent involved would deliver, at worst, a solid, fun comedy. It’s with a heavy heart, then, that I report that the film is, in fact, not a solid, fun comedy at all. It's a strangely messy and laughless affair.
Overall, I'm a fan of, director, Paul Feig. I really liked Bridesmaids, not to mention his work on comedic masterpieces such as The Office and Arrested Development. He's perfectly capable of producing something very funny, so I struggle to comprehend exactly how he turned in such a humourless take on Ghostbusters.
To be fair, it’s not exactly like the original film was a quick-fire laugh-riot, either. It got by on a few good jokes, a fun, exciting plot and the genetic inability human beings have to dislike Bill Murray. Similarly, this film remains fairly watchable thanks purely to its light, fun plot. Sadly though, even that leaves a hell of a lot to be desired. Obviously, it’s extremely derivative of the plot of the original film, but more annoyingly, it's absolutely riddled with messy writing. For example, everything that happens regarding Kristen Wiig's character in the first 20 minutes is redundant. You could open the film on the scene in which Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon are fired and it almost wouldn't change anything. And don't get me started on the villain's plan making absolutely no sense or the way that he conveniently decided to lay said plan out in a series of exposition-friendly drawings inside a text-book.
It's the sort of thing that would be perfectly passable in a film that was nothing but a vehicle for gags. If this was a movie edited together from hundreds of hours of Will Ferrell improvising in a silly wig, it wouldn’t be a problem, but this film is an action / sci-fi / comedy blockbuster. More than that: this film is Ghostbusters.
And given the legacy that they’ve chosen to reset, it’s all the more annoying to see that the end result has no real justification to not be a sequel. A few line changes here and there and this could easily exist inside the same universe as the original film, but instead they chose to make this a hard reboot and, that would, arguably, be admirable, if the film actually seemed to want to stand on its own, two feet. Sadly, so many elements in the film feel like desperate attempts to ride the coattails of goodwill for 1984’s Ghostbusters. These include use of the original Ghostbusters theme tune, dialogue call-backs, cameos from every major actor from the first film willing to return (as well as Slimer and Stay Puft Marshmallow Man) and use of the first film’s logo. In fact, the only cameo that doesn’t feel horribly crow-barred into the film is Ernie Hudson's - and had they changed his line ever so slightly, he could just have been playing Winston again, which makes things all the more frustrating.
In the interest of balance, I’m now going to focus on the positives:
1. The film's characters are fairly likeable. Kate McKinnon gives a particularly great performance. It's a shame that she wasn't given any good material to work with.
2. There are some fairly enjoyable action sequences in the last third of the movie.
3. Chris Hemsworth's character is, unlike the rest of the film, consistently very funny. His gags are all very low-hanging fruit, but they're also the only part of the film that genuinely works. In fact, the difference between his material and the stuff the rest of the cast were given is almost enough to make you speculate as to whether or not the film was meant as a misogynistic Trojan horse, designed specifically to make men look funnier than women.
If you want to hear how much better this film would have been with us at the helm (the answer is "considerably"), listen to our Ghostbusters episode.
And if you want to see proof that, despite this film, women absolutely are as funny as men, check out Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, also currently in cinemas. Hey, we did an episode about that one, too.