Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters is reasonably successful in spirit, but fails to capture the brilliance of the 1984 classic.
To be completely honest, the ghosts were the worst part of 1984’s Ghostbusters. Loud, poorly-animated and characterless, the spectres battled by New York’s finest ghoul-getters were never particularly appealing. But when you have Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis cast as those ghoul-getters, it really doesn’t matter what they’re trying to ‘bust.
Fast-forward 22 years, and Paul Feig has rebooted the Ghostbusters brand with a socially progressive all-female team (Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon). Feig has a mixed record as writer/director: his Bridesmaids and The Heat are recent comedy gems, but last year’s Spy was a painfully derivative and lazily-plotted clunker.
Ghostbusters, it’s fair to say, is much better than Spy. McCarthy and Wiig are a strong duo, who should work together far more often, and perform a series of smart comic exchanges terrifically in the film’s first act. Feig has struck something less than golden, however, with his casting of Jones and McKinnon: two Saturday Night Live cast members whose talents don’t transcend the low standards of modern SNL. Jones’ character, while significantly more tolerable than the actress’ aggressively unfunny talkshow personality, is awarded little material that doesn’t feel like tokenism.
That such a sense of tokenism doesn’t extend to the cast at large is the film’s primary success: one doesn’t see the need for a male component in this team; we merely wish half the women were not the women Feig chose. Chris Hemsworth’s ill-judged Receptionist, a strange and off-putting hybrid of Australian and gay stereotypes, is a misstep in the gender-swap formula. This film could’ve easily survived without him.
While the purely comedic portion of the film is reasonably successful and generally quite entertaining (including a relatively large cameo by a certain former ‘buster), the actual Ghost Busting is- as was the case in ’84- the dullest thing in the film. But while Ivan Reitman managed to inject the original’s action setpieces with wit and originality, Feig leaves the good comedy at the door as our four women get Proton Packin’. The last half-hour is a headache-and-a-half; a very poor climax to what had potential to be a quite good comedy. Nevertheless, the significant flaws in this Ghostbusters are nowhere near offensive nor heinous enough to warrant the barrage of sexist hatred that cast clouds over this film’s very existence. Female Ghostbusters isn’t a problem. If only this female Ghostbusters had a few less problems…