Ghostbusters…Sigh – A Review
The most talked about movie this summer, good or bad, may end up being Paul Feig’s reboot of the beloved Ghostbusters franchise. While reboots already get a bad wrap, this new film has been maligned with heavy criticism because of its female primary cast. We all know and love the four original dudes Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis and Hudson and many fans have been VERY vocal about their distaste for the gender swap.
In this review I’m going to criticize alot of aspects of the film and actors, but I want to get this out there first. The gender swap alone had no negative impact on the movie. In fact, on paper, the casting was quite brilliant, and in our hyper girl-powered culture, it also could make business sense. If you fall into the camp of “F$%& girl Ghostbusters” you can kindly stop reading because I’m not talking to you.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into why I think Ghostbusters might be the biggest example of squandered potential Hollywood has seen in years. The movie has some of the most talented comedic actors in the business today, and they are working with a director that has gotten amazing things out of them before. Couple that with some of the rawest SNL performers in years, full support from the original cast (with cameos galore), and Ivan Reitman in the producer’s chair, once you swallow the idea of women busting ghosts, this looks like a good..scratch that..great idea. What could possibly go wrong?
Somehow, even with all of the right pieces, Ghostbusters manages to be worse than the sum of its parts. The movie’s not bad, just disappointing. I enjoyed the spectacle, and the production really nails the “feel” of Ghostbusters. Visually, it’s possibly the best looking movie of the year. There’s a seat-of-your-pants style of fun that permeates the movie and I’m sure that alone will resonate with younger audiences. Convenient plot devicey elements aside, the core experience in the new GB might be exactly what the franchise needs, but it’s definitely not what the original fans wanted. Let’s talk about the cast.
Like her or not, Melissa McCarthy is a star and that stardom is justified. She’s funny, charismatic and is the perfect example of the “every woman”. While her comedy may be a bit “one note”, she plays that note well and has carved out her own little niche. That track record only makes her performance in Ghostbusters more disappointing. Her one liners fall flat, only about half of her jokes land properly and very little is done to highlight one of her biggest strengths, physical comedy. Parts of her performance seem ad-libbed and while I trust she’s good at ad-libbing, a few more takes probably should have been attempted.
McCarthy’s disappointment is only a footnote compared to that of Kristen Wiig. Truly one of the funniest comedic actors in the business right now, Wiig typically brings a breath of fresh air to everything she touches. In Ghostbusters, her entire performance feels phoned in, deflated and almost timid. I understand she was playing the role of the straight person, but so did Bill Murray and he was marvelous at it. I don’t mean to directly compare the two, what I’m saying is that this film is supposed to be a comedy and its best comedian stayed in the bullpen.
I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Leslie Jones’ brand of humor. The loud black woman jokes she’s known for just don’t hit home with me, but I get that people like her. The completely forgivable problem with her in Ghostbusters is it being more than obvious that she’s a comedian first and a actress second. Her cringeworthy line delivery on the “non-funny” parts actually damaged her lines where she was trying to create laughs. I still think casting her was a good call, but much like everything else the execution leaves alot to be desired.
Finally, Kate Mckinnon is the bright spot on the new Ghostbusters team. The character she created within the universe and quirks she carried throughout the film not only brought the best laughs but was also the only one that felt actually “acted”. Where McCarthy, Wiig and Jones are just playing slightly altered version of themselves, McKinnon went into full-on SNL skit character acting. I don’t think they allowed her enough talk time to truly show her brilliance, as many of the scenes just have her standing in the background or making weird faces for cut-aways. Regardless, if any of these actresses come out of this film with a better reputation, it should be McKinnon. I desperately want her to front something special.
Then there is Chris Hemsworth. Not traditionally cast as a comedic actor, Hemsworth’s character could have been played by a number of ultra-handsome Hollywood hunks. Despite his looks and resume, I wouldn’t say Hemsworth has a history of “owning” the screen. When he plays Thor, he plays it perfectly and a side-effect of that is he comes of as a boring nordic beefcake. His dark-horse casting in Ghostbusters reveals that he has the comedic timing needed to stand out. His on-screen presence is dynamite throughout, especially considering the cast in which he is working.
What this critique really comes down to is this. We’ve waited 27 years for a new Ghostbusters movie, and THIS is what we get. The original movie was something special, a gem, a pivotal culture moment. It helped launch careers, and was crucial in establishing fantastical comedies as money makers. Its literally one of the most important movies of the 80s and THIS is our reboot? It doesn’t feel special, pivotal, or even a must-watch. Its just another modern comedic action box checker farted out by the Hollywood system. Don’t get me wrong, that fart system has produced some great movies and had this Ghostbusters movie not been a Ghostbusters movie It might have sat better with me. The film has merit and assuming it makes money I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel.
Sadly, this was it, 27 years and we get a forgettable mess. So much talent, goodwill, possibility and potential, squandered on a largely unremarkable blip of a movie. I guess what this means is that I’m more upset with the intangible implications of this being a GB movie, than I am with the movie itself. That may not seem fair, and its not, but it’s the price you pay when you decide to reboot such a beloved series.
Verdict: Word of advice to the possible sequel, be funnier. That is all.