No comedy has faced more advanced scrutiny than Paul Feig’s female-driven Ghostbusters reboot. Even by the poisonous standards of internet comment sections, the reaction has been uncomfortably hostile – the first teaser even has the dubious honour of being the most disliked trailer on YouTube. And seemingly all because the comedy stars four funny women. It is still 2016, right?
That’s why it’s pleasing to report that the new Ghostbusters is good. Really good. Fun, foamy and imaginative, not only will it silence those pathetic online trolls, but it will also make you forget it’s even a reboot at all. The movie feels like it’s tailor-made for its quartet of stars. Considering the considerable legacy it follows, that’s quite the compliment.
Bridesmaid’s alum Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy naturally take centre stage and give good value as paranormal investigators Erin and Abby, best friends who split after their book on the existence of ghosts is ridiculed by their peers. But it’s Kate McKinnon’s unhinged engineer Jillian who adds a pleasingly off-beat edge to the team. Channeling the eccentric, live-wire style she honed over several years as a Saturday Night Live performer, McKinnon can always be relied upon to inject fresh energy into the group’s lengthy improv scenes. Only fellow SNL member Leslie Jones disappoints – largely because she’s lumped with an incredibly reductive role as sassy, uneducated subway worker Paddy. For a movie often praised for its progressive approach, Paddy’s characterisation feels surprisingly tone-deaf.
The humour is predominantly light and frothy with Chris Hemsworth’s delightfully dumb receptionist Kevin getting the pick of the funniest moments whether it’s wearing lensless glasses because they kept getting dirty or referring to an aquarium as a submarine for fish. But there are still signs of a sharp satirical wit at times with pointed barbs directed at the online vitriol (“Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts”) and misogyny that has tormented the movie. That the big bad is ultimately defeated by a proton blast to the croch is no coincidence.
If this Ghostbusters has a flaw it’s that is can be too reverent to the 1980 classic. Cameos from the original cast, among many others, feel clunky and unnecessary while the story itself follows the first movie’s formula too closely for comfort. No awards will be handed out for guessing who the villain is or what his evil scheme entails (hint: it’s the creepy loner who keeps muttering to himself about cleansing the world). Feig just about gets away with it here, simply because his four stars are such a joy to watch, but let’s hope he feels able to take a few more risks if this movie earns its expected sequel.
Though directing his first effects-heavy blockbuster, Feig rises to the challenge with his handling of the ghost-busting beats. Shoddy CGI ghosts aside, Feig manages to elicit some genuine frights and even finds some innovative twists on the use of the iconic proton blasters – Jillian’s Travis Bickle-esque pistols are a particular favourite. But the movie is at its best when it’s just Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones (and Hemsworth) sat in a room riffing off each other. Together they have delivered a comedy that, against impossible odds, is funny, moving and uproariously entertaining. Not bad for a bunch of girls, eh?
Runtime: 116 mins; Genre: Sci-fi/Comedy; Released: 11 July 2016;
Director: Paul Feig; Writers: Paul Feig, Katie Dippold;
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones