You get the feeling that poor old Paul Feig was likely to face a mountain of criticism whatever the outcome of his Ghostbusters reboot. The remake of the universally-loved 1984 classic has come in for some pretty extreme flak in the run-up to its release and has infamously become the most disliked trailer ever to be hosted on YouTube. Some of the criticism has taken a pretty unsavoury, at times undeniably misogynistic, tone. It’s clear that there was, and probably remains, a section of the audience determined to dislike this no matter what happened. You sense that Feig has always been fighting a losing battle to some degree.
I desperately wanted Feig, Wiig, McCarthy et al to pull this one out of the bag and deliver a winner. Very little would have been more satisfying than to see hordes of neck-bearded, mouth-breathing buffoons scurry back to their holes with their tails between their legs. Sadly, the vast hordes of keyboard warriors will no doubt feel a sad sense of pride and measure of vindication to learn that’s Feig’s remake, deferential and loving though it is, is a cacophonous damp squib that feels forever in the shadow of its predecessor.
Essentially a straight remake of the original, Feig’s Ghostbusters charts the emergence and rise to prominence of the titular team, fighting a sudden influx of ghosts in New York. Wiig and McCarthy play a couple of estranged pop-science authors struggling through academia who luck into the discovery of a real ghost and decide to pursue a career catching the things. Along with Kate McKinnon’s geeky engineer and Leslie Jones’s street-smart ticket attendant, they stumble on a plot by Neil Casey’s embittered nerd to unleash a wave of ghosts upon the city.
Feig and chums certainly go all out to impress and the sheer volume and regularity of the jokes is admirable. The trouble is that much of the humour relies upon a hyperactive sense of wackiness that becomes tiring after the first 45 minutes. Unlike the straight-faced, deadpan delivery of the original, Feig’s Ghostbusters are larger than life and willing to shout, scream and cartwheel through the movie. The deliberate shift in tone is fair enough, but it becomes a drag and gives you a sense that the Ghostbusters have morphed into cartoonish caricatures of themselves. The visuals are sparkly and the neon-lit spooks are pleasing to the eye, but they never feel like characters in their own right and the whole thing is just too damn noisy.
There is some emotional heft to this, but it feels undernourished and perfunctory. The crux of the movie revolves around the coming together of two previously estranged friends and the cementing of their personal and professional coupling. Unfortunately it all feels pretty much resolved after the first hour, despite the final speech by Wiig on the merits of friendship.
Perhaps the biggest flaw is that Feig’s movie pays such deference to the original, it almost feels terrified of standing on its own two feet. The call-backs and cameos are endless, but never satisfying or amusing. Perhaps Feig and company were aware of the hostility surrounding this and decided to shield themselves by proclaiming their love for the original at every single opportunity.
It’s by no means a complete bust: Jones brings a sarcastic sense of scepticism to the quartet and the team’s patient back and forth with air-headed secretary Chris Hemsworth is pretty good value (for the first four or five times). Never bad enough to warrant anything like the kind of bile thrown at it over the past few months; it’s nevertheless just not good enough to wash away your doubts for the future of the franchise.
Director: Paul Feig
Writer: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Stars: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth
Runtime: 116 mins