Reboots are all the rage in Hollywood – but can 2016’s ‘Ghostbusters’ break the curse of the terrible reboot? Find out with ScreenCritics Adam.
Look, I don’t need to do a fancy introduction to remind you of the mess that happened when this reboot of Ghostbusters was released. Internet factions went to war with each other, with one side saying that this was a direct insult to their childhoods and the other saying at least give it a chance. Quite frankly, both sides went on to embarrass themselves with both sides overreacting to any sort of praise or criticism for the film and death threats being sent to way too many different people. But after all that fuss over this film, was it worth it?
Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig, The Martian) used to love the paranormal but has since moved on and tried to have a successful career at Columbia University. However as more and more ghosts seem to appear around New York, she is dragged back into this field by old friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy, Gilmore Girls) and engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live).
First off, let’s address the elephant in the room, the female Ghostbusters. Because while I’m sure some people were angry at yet another Hollywood reboot, the main reason there was so much controversy over this one in particular, compared to recent remakes Point Break and Ben-Hur anyway, was because this time at least they were all female. Which looking back is quite bizarre because this four are easily are the best part of the film. All four are game and willing and give an energy to the film that keeps it chugging along in its weaker moments, which I will get to. Now I’m not going to praise Wiig and McCarthy too much because they are merely decent and have their share of the weakest lines, but Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones (Saturday Night Live) as Patty Tolan? Brilliant. McKinnon’s Holtzmann is played off as a complete psycho and gets the best lines and laughs and while Jones’ Patty does succumb to some stereotypes, she plays them so well and to perfection so you do end up forgetting about them. She gets the funniest scene in the film as well which is the much trailed selfie ghost one.
And to be quite honest, the action is pretty decent too. The effects are nothing special, considering this hasn’t advanced much further from The Haunted Mansion I’m going to say that ghost CGI is pretty tricky to take much further, but the director Paul Feig (Spy) does try to diversify things. So we don’t just get proton pack action and people shouting don’t cross the streams, though we do get an excruciating version of that line, but the Ghostbusters also get to use some other weapons such as a proto fist thing and a proto shotgun. Hey, it’s different and it leads to a pretty badass scene where Holtzmann ‘kills’ some ghosts so I’m happy.
However the biggest issue, the one that stops the film in its tracks, is that it simply isn’t funny enough. I’ve mentioned that Holtzmann and Patty get laughs because of some very good performances, but the odd good line from them isn’t enough. It’s one of those films that thinks if it throws enough gunk on the straight man, or straight woman in this case, it’ll get a laugh. So it’s basically working on the logic of a 1990s Nickelodeon show. And quite frankly, it isn’t. The reactions from Wiig aren’t good enough, and the film spends way too much time trying to make this into a thing. And that’s without getting to the sometimes painful humor that comes from how stupid their receptionist Kevin (Chris Hemsworth, Thor).
That said, you have to give Ghostbusters credit. In a year of bad villains from Lex Luthor to whatever it was in Suicide Squad, this film may actually have the worst. It’s basically a weedy guy named Rowan (Neil Casey, Cufflinks) who wants to bring about the apocalypse with ghosts for … reasons. Yeah, he wants everyone in the world to die and while its hinted as to why, the world is full of sin, it’s very unclear and it seems as if having an actual human villain for a bit was an afterthought. He doesn’t make up for it by being particularly funny, he’s just there for a while and starts the conclusion of the film. Woop.
And look, it’s rather fair to say that you shouldn’t compare this film to the original Ghostbusters because they are both made by entirely different people and it’s unfair to compare any film to what is a modern classic. It’s also not like the original cast was perfect too as they made that sequel. And I didn’t want to do that in my review either as it’s just a cheap shot against a film which has enough issues without me resorting to using that. But the film doesn’t help itself by constantly reminding you of that old film. Whether its lines cribbed directly from that film or old cast members returning to make cameos, this film leans on that old material but instead of giving us fond memories of that film and being happy that the franchise is continuing, it just shows us what Ghostbusters film we should be watching.
At times, Ghostbusters can succeed. It has a very good cast who are giving it their all, and because of their energy it can make jokes which shouldn’t work, work. But they are having to work against a script that does them no favours and constantly give them dud lines which leave a deathly silence rather than the roars of laughter it should. It’s also not helped by a weak villain that provides no threat or humour and the fact it constantly reminds you of the first film, which was always going to be a struggle to match even if the script was better. A huge shame, as it could have been so much more.