Tuesday, July 19, 2016

REVIEW: Ghostbusters (2016)

This is a review filled with spoilers. I've seen the movie and want to talk about it. If you haven't seen it but are interested in my thoughts, be aware. I'm going to get into this with a relatively sized twinkie amount of detail.

The Deal:

A brief history; Sony reboots the 30 year old comedy horror franchise with Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. They recast the 4 members of the Ghostbusters team with, fittingly, Saturday Night Live alumni. But this time it's 4 women. Shock. Exclamation. The internet falls into the most pathetic backlash I've seen towards an unreleased film. Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and SNL outsider but regular collaborator Melissa McCarthy don the boiler suits. Surprise casting of beefcake Chris Hemsworth as the secretary rounds out the line-up. A trailer gets released, the backlash swells. And now we're here.

team gb

The movie itself is similar in spirit but quite different from the original. Both in tone and story. I'm not going to rehash the plot in its entirety but the team get into a bunch of bumps and scrapes with a few different ghosts and feel like they're on to something. Wiig's character really wants recognition from the general public that ghosts are real but pretty much everyone else just wants to get on with the work. The bad guy is very much a bullied nerd who has gone crazy and wants revenge on the world because he's not cool. The girls stop him, they get the recognition that Wiig so desperately desires, New York is safe, The End.



What's Good:

Everyone has been talking about Kate McKinnon's performance being a stand-out and while I did enjoy her creepy-weirdo routine, for me, the real star of Ghostbusters is Leslie Jones. Thankfully, she is given much more of a role than her original counterpart Ernie Hudson was ever afforded. Often the grounded character is the less fun one but as the relatable and warm Patty, Jones manages to be the heart of the team and the movie.

ghostbusters-lesliejones

Chris Hemsworth is also noteworthy as the stupid, and kinda an asshole, secretary Kevin. When he's not answering the phone (and he's never answering the phone) he manages to get some of the better laughs in the film. Particularly during his interview scene which manages to hit all the right notes. Wiig is at her best when she's emphatically fawning over him too.

The set-pieces with the individual ghosts are good, and best when they give some backstory to the ghosts themselves. Part of me wishes there was no big-villain and the movie was more of just the team tackling individual problems. But I guess that's a formula for a TV show not a film.

In the big final battle I noted that almost every single movement the 4 women make were in support of their team-mates. They were rarely busting a ghost during this big battle in Times Square unless it was a ghost challenging their friend. This theme of helping each other emphasises what the movie does best - sisterhood. This is very much a girl power film and if the big smile of the young girl seated in front of me in the cinema was any indicator, it was a theme well executed.

The effects were pretty great. The proton beams looked fantastic. The effects of the ghosts in particular looked really good on the big screen. Especially the human shaped ghosts. Those sequences managed to be genuinely creepy and very impressive. On the subject of ghosts: The appearance of Slimer is much more prolonged than I thought it would be and a genuine highlight.

What's Bad:

The pacing of the movie is a little too fast. There is barely a breath to take as they go from action scene to big set-piece and back again. In a strange way the actors also barely take a breath as the dialogue runs at a break-neck speed and seemingly never stops. Some of the best parts are when things slow down and people can react to what's happening but those moments are unfortunately too few and far between.

This really is a great cast but they can feel wasted at times. Wiig is an amazing comic actress but as the stuffy Erin Gilbert she rarely gets a chance to shine. Similarly McCarthy is a stand-out performer of her generation but fails to feel like the leader that the script signifies that she is. It tells us that this is all her idea but after that everyone else seems to do most of the work.

ghostbusters

The cameos in the movie highlight a weird problem that the reboot has. It works so hard to make nods to the original film and to shoehorn in the original cast but then sets itself in a different universe. What's the point? If you're going to re-do it, re-do it. Trying to appease the original fans seems silly if you're making a film that re-writes the original story. The movie stands on it's own. It doesn't need the connection. If anything they're distracting. If you wanted to use all the 1984 cast then let them be retired Ghostbusters, otherwise keep them out of this new iteration. All it's going to do is to wind up the detractors.

The movie throws a lot of jokes at you and most don't land. There are still enough that do land to make the film fun and enjoyable but when the ratio is skewed like this it gives you a taste of desperation. I don't know how much of the dialogue was improvised but if the movie is 100% scripted, it's bad writing. If it's a lot of improv, it's bad direction. Either way, something went wrong with quality control.

What's worse is this adds to the problem of the film's pacing, as having so many scenes of "witty banter" means that the plot has to make a number of jumps to get us from A to B in time. I wouldn't have minded taking out the whole giant-dragon-ghost at the metal concert sequence if it gave us more time to move the characters through the story emotionally. Hell, I would even have given up Kevin entirely too if it gave us more time for that.

Overall:

Despite the flaws, the movie is still good fun and I look forward to seeing the team re-uniting for a sequel. I brought my girlfriend to the film who hadn't seen the original at all (and strongly dislikes action films) and she left the cinema being really surprised and delighted by Ghostbusters. There were plenty of laughs from the rest of the cinema-goers during the screening and I caught myself laughing out loud on a number of occasions too.

Was I thrilled? No. But I also wasn't disappointed either. The movie is a solid 8 out of 12 monkeys.