There’s something strange in my neighbourhood cinema, and I don’t really want to call anyone about it. Not because it’s hard for me to talk about, on the contrary, but because everyone seems to have an opinion about the new Ghostbusters film without actually seeing what they’ve done with the franchise.
Well folks it’s D-day, so we finally get to talk about it…however I feel I need to clarify a few things before we start.
The way the film has reached the screen is a strange one, Ghostbusters 3 was rewritten more times than that break up text you sent your crazy ex. For whatever reason it never found the magic it needed to reach the screen. The heart breaking loss of Harold Ramis in 2014 made sure that ghost would never rise and so the studios looked to take a different approach.
Cue an all-female cast, a new script, and a new Ghostbusters. You’d think fans would rejoice? More of what they like, something new, something different, with Harold gone it seems like the right thing to do, right? Well, sadly the Ghostbusters announcement turned into a quasi-feminist debate. ‘How can you remake Ghostbusters with chicks?’ ‘Why change something so good just to put women in the film?’.
Now I’m a fan of the 1984 Ghostbusters, and I don’t use the word fan lightly, I am fanatical about that film. I quote it, I dress like it at Halloween, I have more joy than I should from owning a 1984 Stay Pufft marshmallow man action figure. Now, as a fan I have something to say to those who ‘just can’t take a female Ghostbusters cast seriously’ (yes, someone actually said that to me).
What I want to say is simple… Shut the fuck up.
I know you probably believe women should vote and even believe in fair pay and equality etc etc, so I’m not going to label you as an anti-feminist Dickflap. I would however like to point out that you sound like an ass-hat when you say stuff like that. Ghostbusters 3 is dead, the original films were something special, they were a combination of original storytelling and on-set ad-lib genius that took some of the funniest guys from Saturday night live and let them loose on a film set. The result speaks for itself, it’s a magic that can’t be bought because lord knows the studios have tried.
So it’s 2016, people want more Ghostbusters, but it’s been impossible to bottle lightning - so what do you do? You find the funniest women from Saturday night live and you give them a shot. Maybe, just maybe, lightening will strike twice? After all, can you name a male Ghostbusters cast with the comedy chops to compete with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd?
So… why does saying you don’t like lady Ghostbusters make you an ass-hat? Well because they’re there to breathe new life into something dead, and most of all because the studio has tried really hard to meet you half way, but all you can see is tits. Let it go man (and if this applies to you I’m sure you’re a man) and enjoy something new instead of something reworked.
Ok, rant over. Sorry it took so long. Let’s look at the film like that, something new to breathe life into a dead franchise and not as a ‘lady version’ of classic because, believe it or not, women are capable of being funny and weird and awesome too.
The film starts and instantly slips into familiar ground. There’s something strange in the neighbourhood, and we’re soon left with a blood curdling scream faded into that oh-so-familiar title screen and funktactular theme tune. I stand by the term funktactular for that tune and you can’t change me!
The film has a pretty straightforward set up, we’re essentially involved in a simple origin story. We meet our cast one by one, each is conveniently introduced to us through the narrative, so it’s an easy thing to accept.
The story see’s Abby (Melissa McCarthy) and Erin (Kirsten Wiig) reunited after a book they published together is being marketed without Erin’s permission. There’s history between the two main characters and we learn they used to be best friends but fell out over their attitudes towards science and the paranormal. Cue Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) as Abby’s loveable but insane sidekick and the gangs nearly all here.
Naturally they all get sucked into investigating the strange goings on at the start of the film and so the story begins.
We’re soon introduced to the other characters and things actually take shape quite quickly. The start of the film is well crafted. It gets some essentials out the way quickly for the audience and has a good pace to keep things moving. The back and forth between the straight acting Abby and the fast and loose Erin and Holtzmann gave me the Ghostbusters I know and love in a new frame of reference. There was actually a smile on my face at this point, something I wasn’t sure would happen.
It’s sad that this was probably the best part of the film, as the film goes on we’re introduced to our first ghost, but instead of something that rides the line between thriller and comedy, we get a floating woman straight out of Scooby Doo. It’s not that the effects were bad, it’s just that Scooby Doo used them more effectively and it stuck out like a saw thumb in this film. Any moments of suspense or dread were killed by the fact the ghost had a silly look on her face and when she vomits ectoplasm over Erin, the film for the first time goes into a slapstick style comedy which seemed like a cheap laugh.
The film Is peppered with what seems like easy laughs that don’t really contribute much as a whole. It’s almost like they’ve tried a little too hard and sometimes it just goes that step too far and brings the viewer out of the scene. This film is basically Millhouse to 1984 Ghostbusters Bart.
This ‘Millhousery’ isn’t helped when we meet the villain of the story, Rowan (Neil Casey). Our villain is planting devices around New York that allow ghosts to cross over and cause havoc. His end game is to control the ghosts and take over the world… and he would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those meddling kids! Unfortunately, his character isn’t creepy, nor is it funny. I’m not actually sure what they were trying to achieve with him, other than to put more ghosts on screen and the story really suffers from here on in.
I always felt like the original Ghostbusters film brought us along for the ride. Everything was new to them was new to us too. Hell there were some genuinely creepy bits in Ghostbusters 2 - I’ll never buy one of those creepy prams. The problem with Ghostbusters 2016 is that it spoon-feeds the audience all the way through. Here’s the characters, here’s the weapons. Here’s more weapons for some reason, here’s a ghost action sequence for no reason, here’s slimmer and his girlfriend joyriding ecto1 around New York…WHAT THE FUCK!! Cheesy as it sounds that’s actually crucial to the story, the film went full Scooby Doo at this point and there was no coming back from that.
What we end up with is an overworked story to shoe in Ghostbusters references rather than just pay tribute to them. Bill Murray appearing as a skeptic was OK, but it brought me out of the story I was being sucked into. Then it happened over and over again, Janine, Ray, Winston the list goes on, but their existence in this world only reminded me of a simple fact, the original film was better and that I wanted to watch that instead.
The end of the film doesn’t get much better; in fact, it goes into borderline pantomime in parts. Our villain through the magic of possession is now Chris Hemsworth, who throughout the film as an actor in a room full of comedians manages to not be funny, it also turns out as a villain he’s also not very threatening. He’s actually one of the worst characters in the film, they return to him again and again for the same jokes, but he never really sells his low IQ and so it just doesn’t work like it should.
Back to our villain: For a ghost with what seems like unlimited power, he decides to turn into a giant Ghostbusters ghost to take over the city… and yes it is as ridiculous as it sounds. In the original film the marshmallow man was a crazy surprise, it was ridiculous in the name of comedy and it was impressive how they wove it into the film, this however seems unimaginative and it’s ultimately a poor imitation.
I think that’s the problem with the film. When it’s doing its own thing in its own style it really has some great bits, but sadly most of the film is a just poor imitation rather than something original. It’s acted well, all the main cast do a decent job apart from Hemsworth. Special props to Holtzmann and Patty (Leslie Jones) they brought something new that I actually wanted to see more of. Sadly, instead McCarthy and Wiig shed their characters in-favour of their usual slapstick style, but to be honest they did it better in Bridesmaids. It’s the story here that I feel let down by the most. It never really gave the actors the chance to inhabit their characters. Instead we get McCarthy being McCarthy and Wiig being Wiig. Good as that is, I’d rather have seen some new Ghostbusters.
As someone who really wanted to believe in this film I feel a little let down. I was really open to something new, something original. Star Wars proved we can have something new and all you need to do is respect what came before it. Ghostbusters 2016 didn’t really achieve that respect; it feels more like a rip off than an homage.
3/5 stars the best episode of Scooby doo you’ll ever see. Shame it’s a Ghostbusters film. If you’re going to indulge then look out for Holtzmann and Patty they steal the show when they’re allowed to. Other than that it’s average at best.