Movie Review: ‘Ghostbusters’
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth
Plot: A theoretical physicist who used to try to prove the existence of ghosts reteams with her old colleague, an oddball engineer and a street smart subway worker to hunt and trap ghosts in New York.
Review: Holtzman is awesome. That’s what we’re taking away from this experience. I’ve never seen Kate McKinnon in a movie before, but she absolutely kills this role. As the quirky, somewhat disconnected gadget builder Holtzman she is easily the best part of the movie. She’s cool and she’s fun and she’s badass. More of Holtzman, please.
In spite of what the trailer’s suggest, this is not a direct sequel to the classic Ghostbusters movies (yes, movies, I like the second one, damnit). Instead it’s a total remake with the Ghostbusters forming for the first time. Weirdly all the major players from the original cast still working make appearances as different characters. We’ll come back to that.
It shouldn’t be hard to put together a good story for Ghostbusters, but sadly this is the new movie’s biggest failing. We get all the characters together at the start and establish how the ghosts work fine, but then it doesn’t go anywhere. The antagonist gets very little explanation or build up, it’s just something that happens in the background until he crosses paths with the Ghostbusters almost incidentally. The only reason they have to be invested in defeating him is rescuing their receptionist. Compared to Gozer and Vigo, this guy Rowan is a real non-event. Some things do work, such as setting up a backstory to how the characters know each other and the political corruption angle, but overall the story is not up to scratch.
What does work well is the characters. Rather than just analogues of the original ensemble or thin stereotypes we’ve got a team of unique and fresh characters. Like the original cast they all have a distinct personality and gel extremely well. They’ve got a good chemistry and the best jokes are the ones where they work off each other rather than the often painfully telegraphed slapstick. Also Holtzman is consistently hilarious.
Yeah, sadly the comedy falls flat more often than they can get away with. There’s some really good humour in this film, some clever and well paced sequences, but every time a gag hits and makes you think the movie is going somewhere good it stumbles into poor slapstick and weak jokes being dragged out for way to long. One recurring joke concerns Chris Hemsworth receptionist character who is portrayed as being so stupid it beggars belief. He’s written as so stupid is actually breaks the suspension of disbelief in a comedy movie about scientists catching ghosts with laser guns. Trying to catch fish through a glass tank, covering his eyes when he hears a loud noise…it’s just silly and not in the right way. If they stuck with his character being a clueless wannabe actor it would have worked. The bit with the ‘doctor’ headshots was funny. More of that.
Much of the success of the original team comes from the immensely dry delivery of the original actors. They play it immensely straight in an unusual set of circumstances. And yes, it might be unfair to compare to the beloved original, but if they didn’t want that to happen they shouldn’t have put in so many throwbacks to the first film including filling small roles with the entire damned cast. Bill Murray has a supporting role as a sceptic, far to long to be a cameo. Later Dan Ackroyd turns up as a cabbie whose scene only exists to feature a cameo from Ackroyd saying one of the original catchphrases. Ernie Hudson appears in a ‘twist’ cameo that is equally pointless and during the credits Sigourney Weaver plays as a straight foil to Holtzman, which is to little, to late. It’s all eye-rolling, cringe inducing forced nods to a nostalgic gem. The movie works best when it’s being its own thing. Annie Potts is the only cameo that works, playing a nasty hotel receptionist – subtle enough and quick enough for a laugh without dragging the film to a complete stop.
When the movie does it’s own thing it hits its stride. Pulling out new gadgets, like Holtzman pulling out the pistols and unleashing photon whips and going to town, is awesome. Having original characters is the strongest point of the film. It’s just a shame that the small, good aspects of the movie aren’t part of a better story, and wasn’t trying to namecheck the original film over and over again. Overall it feels like a missed opportunity.
Rating: SIX out of TEN (one of those is just for Kate McKinnon).