Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters (2016).

Director: Paul Feig (Spy, The Heat, Bridesmaids).

Cast: Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, Tammy, Spy), Kristen Wiig (Paul, Bridesmaids), Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live, Finding Dory), Leslie Jones (Saturday Night Live), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Cecily Strong (Saturday Night Live), Andy Garcia (The Godfather Part III), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones).

There’s no doubt that everyone involved in 2016’s Ghostbusters reboot had big shoes to fill. Whether it was the main cast, the director, or writers, despite never being a cinematic landmark franchise, Ghostbusters has, for the past two years, been viewed as this very important beacon of 80’s comedy. But we all know Groundhog Day was the better Murray/Ramis joint.

Paul Feig’s take on the conductors of the metaphysical examination just about lands on its feet, even if there are shades of the past holding it up from behind.

The main reason you’re here, is to hear about the comedy. Is the film actually funny, and does it live up to the original’s ‘standards’? Well, yes and no. As ever, it’s entirely objective, personally I find jokes about farts coming from people’s ‘front bottoms’ funny, but it’s not hard to see why some might groan at the exploits of Kate McKinnon’s character, Jillian Holtzmann. But for the most part, her eccentric behavior makes the film’s world a brighter place, despite acting as if she were in an Saturday Night Live skit throughout the movie.

Melissa McCarthy’s character Abby Yates doesn’t stretch far from other characters in McCarthy’s closet. Funny, but a little tiring after a while, and I spent a lot of the time watching the film wondering when her and Kristen Wiig’s character were going to bounce off one another, but it never really happens. They have a dysfunctional relationship at the start of the film, kind of make up with one another, and then forget about it until the end, where a very cliché moment happens and the characters need to reaffirm one another’s friendship.

Patty, played by Leslie Jones, is the last addition to the Ghostbusters team, and she’s not a scientist. And that’s fine, in fact, the film is better for it. She brings a new dynamic to the team but more importantly a new perspective. Initially coming out the cinema, I didn’t really understand nor like her character, but having thought about it, she’s probably the most relatable and grounded character. She’s the only one who seems to react to the actual events of the film, instead of just happily continuing along for the ride and the excitement of the adventure. Patty doesn’t feel like a comedian inserted in an acting role, whereas McCarthy and McKinnon do. I didn’t find her very funny, but outside Kevin and Holtzmann, she’s one of the better characters in the film.

Just below Kate McKinnon on the “who I laughed at the most” meter is Chris Hemsworth, whose role as Kevin has to be one of the saving graces of the film. There’s a hundred ways to write a stupid character and get it completely wrong, but Hemsworth pulls off the comedic attitude needed to play this character right. I can almost see Hemsworth transitioning into a comedic actor, making people forget he’s merely a handsome beefcake, just as Taylor Lautner has started to do.

Ironically, the cameos from 1984 film don’t land well and drag the film down as a whole. Bill Murray’s ghost-denier character serves little purpose but to advance the plot, and everyone else just makes the sequel/reboot/re-imagining status of the film even more confusing than the first trailer. Gutting these cameos might have made for a better paced and edited movie. Lingering shots of a bust of Rick Moranis only highlighted the problem. It’s a bad state of affairs when the best cameo in a film comes from Ozzy Osbourne. And this film has Charles Dance in it (for about three minutes).

The musical motifs and themes were inoffensive as they come, creeping up every now and again through the film. Though looking through the official Ghostbusters 2016 compilation on Spotify, I see ‘Party Up’ is listed, so I’m glad someone is keeping DMX relevant in this day and age.

The villain and accompanying motivations were extremely dull, though it did give a reason to use more Chris Hemsworth, so I’m undecided. A basement dwelling occultist who held open a door for a girl and got mad that she didn’t say thank you (I think) is a weak character.

The film’s final action sequences were great, and it’s obvious this is what most of the budget went towards. The film in general has some amazing CGI work, but these scenes were amazing and I’ve no doubt this looked fantastic in 3D (I saw the 2D version). Holtzmann’s arsenal of weapons provides the team a wonderful spectacle in the film’s finishing moments, where they finally start busting some ghosts to a toe-tapping track in the background. It’s a shame nothing else comes close to this high point of the movie.

Overall, I’d like to see more, mainly more of Kevin and Holtzmann. But I’d like to see these caricatures actually become characters and not just walking punchlines. The film needed to take away the crutches that were the original cast, and instead stand on its own two feet and be its own thing. I’d be interested in a “Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe“, as much as I’ve started to loathe the ‘universification’ of franchises in modern cinema. Hell, if Sony wants to jump the shark entirely, I’d be down for a Men in Black x Jump Street x Ghostbuster film, now that the former is happening. 

3/5

Feature image credit: Sony Pictures

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