Rebooting Ghostbusters was always going to be a tough gig – even before the internet got involved.
Given the thirty-plus years of failed efforts at continuing the series with the original cast, a reboot was probably the only card really left available to Ghostbusters – and there’s really no point in doing a reboot if you don’t mess with the formula. If you don’t, what’s the point? You just end up with another Point Break or Robocop otherwise.
Paul Feig’s female-led Ghostbusters reboot manages to confidently steps out of the shadow of the original film while retaining some of the same quirk but, beyond that, it feels a little bit out of its depth. It’s got spark and spunk aplenty but quavers under the pressure placed upon it as Sony’s latest franchise blockbuster.
Set in modern New York, the film sees university professor Erin (Kristen Wiig) chase down her former-friend Abby (Melissa McCarthy) after the book they wrote together arguing for the existence of the paranormal threatens to capsize her career. Throw in Kate McKinnon as the zany physicist Jillian Holtzmann and Leslie Jones‘s New York history aficionado Patty and you’ve got the new team.
Performance-wise, it has to be said that McKinnon is the clear standout here. A mischievous powerhouse of creative energy, she’s almost worth the entire rest of the movie put together. While Wiig and Jones hold their own, McKinnon’s infectious energy can’t be downplayed. The film’s overall identity owes a lot to her.
If anything, McCarthy feels like the weakest of the four just because of how inseparable the actress’ persona feels from that of her character. That said, it takes about half an hour for you to get a feel for what parts of Abby are McCarthy riffing on the material and what parts are the written role. Once you get there she improves notably – partly due to her dynamic with Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin. Hemsworth’s comedic timing is nothing short of show-stopping and he’s the only person really playing in the same league as McKinnon.
Then there are the cameos sprinkled through the film. Each manages to be funnier than the last, with Bill Murray‘s being the cleverest and Sigourney Weaver’s playing out as the funniest.
If anything drags the film down, it’s the villain. Neil Casey is flat and boorish to watch. He’s clearly intended as a play on the kind of internet trolls that so reviled the production of this movie but beyond that there’s just nothing to him. He monologues to the camera within what feels like five minutes of being on screen. It says something about his performance that the sequence wherein he possesses a series of main cast members is probably the highpoint.
Casey aside, there’s a great chemistry to the cast in this film. It’s fun to watch them bounce off one another and it felt like most of the gags land – though your mileage may vary. The first act is really tightly constructed and a strong showcase for economic storytelling and character development. Unfortunately, these strengths are let down by the SFX-heavy third act sequence that sees the team throw down with an army of ghosts.
Further frustrating things is the film’s vagueness about the rules of engagement. Aside from their own scientific interest, there’s not really a solid and consistent reason for the team to capture the supernatural forces let loose in New York. Unlike the original film, ghosts are seemingly able to be vanquished by blasting them with proton beams alone. As a result, the whole process feels a little like a redundant carryover from the original. That said, Feig’s willingness to depart from the source material suggests the series ‘ legacy is working to service his movie not the other way around.
Like the original, this new Ghostbusters works as both a comedy and an action flick. However, it’s the franchise-blockbuster aspect that overtakes the film in its final act that ultimately does it in. If you expect to hate it, you’ll probably enjoy it more than you expected to. If you expected to love it, you’ll likely find yourself a little disappointed. It’s a fun watch – but not the slam dunk it probably needed to be.
The more and more I think about it, I can’t help but think the thrill of the film will wear thin on repeat viewings. That said, there’s definitely a lot I liked about this film and it’s probably still worth seeing. The Ghostbusters are back – I just don’t know if this incarnation has what it takes to endure.