Moving on from releasing the most disliked trailer in YouTube history, Paul Feig has set out to recapture the energetic fun of a 1984 classic, injecting the formula with his signature comedic style with the help of his favorite leading ladies, Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. Following the trend set by Bill Murray and his fellow Ghostbusters, the new gang are the film’s greatest strength, their chemistry infusing the reboot with energy. So far, the summer of 2016 has seen a dearth of high quality blockbuster movies but happily, Ghostbusters is one of the most fun, even if it does have its problems.
After an opening scary enough to establish ghosts as a credible threat, we are introduced to the main characters, starting with Kristen Wiig as the straight-laced science lecturer, Erin Gilbert. Whilst working towards her tenure at Columbia, a colleague approaches her about a book concerning ghosts and the supernatural that she wrote before her career kicked off. The reappearance of the book brings the four leads together and when ghosts begin to mysteriously appear throughout Manhattan, the laughs kick in. As the gang improves their skills, they are introduced to Rowan North (Neil Casey), a long-bullied janitor who hopes to lead the ghosts on a revenge mission against the humans populating New York.
The first few jokes cracked in Wiig’s introduction feel awkward and out of place, but don’t think this sets the tone for the rest of the film. As the Ghostbusters are brought together one-by-one through a series of unfortunate, career-related events, witty remarks and inventive slapstick moments give the film its lighthearted tone and accentuate the palpable chemistry between the four stars. They even play off the backlash surrounding the film with a comment on one of the gang’s videos.
Jokes become more frequent and hilarious when Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin is introduced as their assistant. Hemsworth plays the hunky, loveable idiot role to perfection – something that we haven’t seen from him before. A running joke about his hipster glasses works particularly well. However, as is the case with other Paul Feig comedies, the laughs dry out as the film goes on, especially when the full crew isn’t together. Of course, Ghostbusters has CGI ghosts and action set pieces to focus on as the film draws to its conclusion, but there is barely a single truly funny joke make during the final half hour.
However, all four leads are on fine form. As expected, Wiig and McCarthy play off each other notably well, injecting energy into the film for the fun first hour. The fact that the new characters are different enough from those played by Bill Murray and co. in the 1984 film is key to the reboot’s energy. Wiig’s Erin is stubborn and sensible; McCarthy’s Abby is mischievous, outgoing, and Chinese food-obsessed; McKinnon’s Jillian is wacky, wild, and the technician of the crew, and finally, Jones’ Patty is brave and knowledgeable. Together, they form their own perfect foursome of personalities yet remind us enough of the classic cast.
The more specific throwbacks to the original are more lackluster, though. Appearances made by Murray, Akroyd, and others but have no place in the plot, nor are they involved in any memorable moments. They all appear separately, spread out across the near 2-hour running time, but act as nothing more than a hit of nostalgia intended to illicit a reaction from the audience.
The lack of humor isn’t the only problem with the second half of Ghostbusters. The solution to the problem facing the team is presented as a lightbulb moment, and a far too convenient one. Their situation goes from disastrous to perfect within a matter of seconds and creates a poorly executed final action scene. This probably isn’t helped by the fact that the writers clearly weren’t sure what to do with the film’s central villain. As his plan reaches its climax, Rowan is lurking in corners and sending poorly designed ghosts to attack the Ghostbusters, without posing much of a threat himself. Throughout the final scenes, Wiig’s character (presented as the main one) is off on her own, separated from the group. Removing the focus from the main characters as a foursome also removes the lighthearted tone and likability of the cast. That’s certainly not to say they’re bad individually, but the way the play off each other throughout is what makes every moment as good as it is. The special effects and CGI on show in the final scenes is excellent however, significantly better than what was seen in the early trailer.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ghostbusters defies criticism based solely on the fact that its leads were female. The laughs disappear in the poor final act, the villain is underplayed, and the nostalgic moments are momentarily cool but ultimately lackluster, but the undeniable chemistry between the four leads (plus Hemsworth) is the film’s greatest strength. They pump Ghostbusters full of energy and wit that creates plenty of fun, feel-good moments that ultimately make it an enjoyable, if flawed watch.
SCORE: 3/5 – Fair