“Who You Gonna Call?”
Directed by Paul Feig
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth
When the reemergence of her past involvement with paranormal research leads to the end of Erin Gilbert’s (Wiig) academic career, she unites with her childhood friend Abby (McCarthy), Abby’s new partner Holtzman (McKinnon) and streetwise history buff Patty (Jones) to find, trap and prove the existence of ghosts. As they confront various manifestations, however, they stumble onto the trail of Rowan (Neil Casey), a disaffected genius with a plan to boost the power of ghostly manifestations until the barriers between worlds fall.
With the city intent on burying its ghost problem, the team find themselves alone – save for their hopelessly ineffectual secretary, Kevin (Hemsworth) – and repeatedly labelled as frauds. Rowan is killed, but that’s just part of the plan, and ultimately the Ghostbusters are all that stands between the city of New York and supernatural Armageddon.
What’s wrong with it?
When the trailer for Ghostbusters appeared, a lot of people dumped on the effects and, sadly, not without reason. They’re good, but still clearly CGI, and CGI just never looks as real as practical effects; even slightly shonky practical effects. So it goes.
Erin’s infatuation with Kevin is a little cringeworthy. It’s deliberately so, but it’s not a vein of humour that works for me.
What’s right with it?
The performances are top notch. I’d like to say they silence the nay sayers who decided from day one that women can’t bust ghosts because… vaginas get haunted? Sadly, I’m not sure anything would silence that particular hard line of hate.
The film does itself a huge favour by not mapping its characters directly onto the originals, instead picking aspects that works and wedding them to new ones to create entirely original characters. It also features cameos from about 80% of the original main cast, just to give it that seal of approval (particular props to Dan Akroyd, dropping ‘I ain’t afraid of no ghost’ into the dialogue without a hint of self-consciousness or shame.)
Despite some concerns that the black character was going to be the driver, Patty’s knowledge of New York is less being hip to the streets and more an in depth knowledge of the city’s civic and architectural history.
While in may ways the also ran of the leads in terms of focus time, Holtzman is the absolute bomb; a flirty, irreverent, fire-dancing tinkerer. I’d call her ‘inimitable’, but the web is already flooding with cosplay pics.
Chris Hemsworth is also a star as the idiot hunk Kevin, who puts his hands over his eyes to ward off loud noises and has an acting headshot of himself ‘listening to a saxophone’, and especially when he gets possessed by embittered genius Rowan. The moment where he’s controlling the cops like puppets seems to squander the chance of a dance number, but it turns out they were just saving that for the credits.
While the CG effects lack a certain something, choreographically the action sequences in this film – especially the showdown routine where the team take out Rowan’s heavy hitters – are hands down better than they original.
The antagonist is an interesting case. Rowan is a sad little hater, who has suffered much the same disappointments and setbacks as our leads, but failed to rise above the misconception that he is ‘owed’ better. In a lot of ways, he – and the commenters on the team’s online content – represent the haters who damned the film without an inch of footage shot.
How bad is it really?
Ghostbusters is a worthy successor to the original, matching just enough beats to show respects, with enough variation to be its own thing. While McKinnon is the standout, all of the performers are excellent and the film rattles along brilliantly. I suppose some might say that the film is short on strong male characters, but let’s ask an expert whether men are now coming up short on strong roles?
Yeah; I think men are doing okay.
Best bit (if such there is)?
As mentioned above, prior to the confrontation with Rowan the team face off western style with a group of serious ghosts, deploying their new ‘sidearms’, finishing with a tour de force routine with Holtzman and her proton pistol whip thingies. It’s fucking beautiful, man.
What’s up with…?
- Why is Ozzy Osbourne playing a modest metal festival in a New York theatre?
- And are there really still heavy metal bands who do the Satanism thing?
Production values – Slightly underwhelming ghosts are somewhat offset by loving use of New York locations and good pyrotechnics. 11
Dialogue and performances – The script is punchy and rapid fire, mostly avoiding the cruder line of humour. 6
Plot and execution – The plot is slight, in the manner of origin stories, but holds together well and has a more immediate and identifiable villain than the original (not that the hints of future Zuul don’t make me smile.) 4
Randomness – Well, Ozzy is always pretty random… 5
Waste of potential – So, call me a heretic, but as much as I love the original Ghostbusters, it’s not perfect. It’s like Highlander; it’s something wonderful and distinctive, but still a flawed product. This reinvention is honestly no less flawed, but also no more flawed. 5