I can think of no better metaphor for this film than its theme song, which is a cover of the original’s theme by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliot. It’s not as good as Ray Parker Jr.’s, it’s entirely too fast-paced and rushed and it feels wrong on several levels. It adds things that don’t belong and it omits the essential (how do you cover that theme and cut out “I ain’t afraid of no ghost”?). That being said, it’s kind of… okay… I guess?
Similarly, the film is better than I thought it would be. It has respect for the original, which is more than I can say of many other summer blockbusters cashing in on an established franchise (I’m looking at you, Terminator Genisys), and the majority of the plot was actually comprehensible (That one’s aimed at you, Independence Day: Resurgence). There’s obviously been a lot of love put into this movie, so it’s a shame that it’s not better.
In the original film, if you’ll recall, we begin with a scene that’s actually not funny at all, a little bit scary and then transition into the opening credits with that great music over the top. In this remake, the scene is much scarier, much faster, much more violent and then much more awkward when we’re suddenly confronted with the bouncy music over the city streets. It actually does a great job of letting the audience know what they’re in for. Hints of the original, but electrified to 2016 levels.
We then go to Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), a professor who has put aside her crazy theories of the paranormal and is pursuing a career in “real” science. After her old writing partner, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) begins circulating copies of their old work, the two are drawn back together just as the evil Rowan North (Neil Casey) begins to enact a wicked plan. Along for the ride are fellow Ghostbusters Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), and the four protagonists are “assisted” by receptionist Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). All of our original heroes get little cameos (even Harold Ramis, kind of), but none of them are particularly enjoyable besides Dan Akroyd‘s, which, while not the best moment in the film, is probably the funniest.
McCarthy and McKinnon are great. I find McCarthy’s delivery to be excellent in all of her work, and Ghostbusters is no exception. McKinnon brings a delightfully quirky aspect to the role, clearly taking cues from the original’s Ray and Egon while also maintaining a sense of freshness and originality that I found hilarious and endearing. Wiig, Jones and Hemsworth have really, really bad dialogue. None of it’s funny. I’m not sure how much was improvised and how much was scripted, but every time they spoke it felt like a sitcom (or a Saturday Night Live sketch, which obviously makes a lot of sense); all that was missing was the studio laughter. They even get Ozzy Osbourne in for literally three seconds, during which he delivers a one-liner. It’s that kind of humour that reminds me less of Ghostbusters and more of Meet the Spartans. Hemsworth in particular was clearly having a great time and enjoying his character immensely, but every single time he opened his mouth it was just a variation on “look how stupid I am”. It’s very hard to not enjoy the guy in a role, but this film almost manages.
One guy who I’m still not even sure about is Casey. His performance is so ridiculously lame that I can’t do anything but sincerely hope it was intentionally cheesy. It’s in that weird state of limbo where he’s not quite hamming it up but it also doesn’t really feel like terrible acting, either. It’s just a bizarre performance. Another issue is the chemistry. By the end of the film, certain events have unfolded that really require the four heroes (particularly McCarthy and Wiig) to have a certain level of chemistry that doesn’t quite get there. The emotional climax feels forced and clumsy.
There are some great action sequences, and some awesome fight choreography. There’s one scene in particular where the four stand back to back to back to back and fight off waves of ghosts with a variety of cool gadgets. The ghosts would be hit by their weapons and vanish in puffs of smoke. I tried my hardest to sit back and enjoy it for the fun moment it was, but there was that nagging voice in my head asking “So… are they killing ghosts right now?” They certainly weren’t containing them in their trap. It’s really strange, and never explained. Are they knocking ghosts unconscious or what?
There was a lot of controversy surrounding this film, mostly due to it having the most disliked trailer in YouTube history. It certainly doesn’t deserve the amount of sheer hatred that has been leveled at it (I actually prefer it to Ghostbusters II), but if my first thought after leaving the cinema is “thank God it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be”, then it’s probably also not the kind of film I’ll be praying gets a sequel any time soon.