When reviewing a movie it’s important to try and tune out the pre-release hype or controversies that might surround it, and judge it on its own merits. That’s tricky with this new version of Ghostbusters for two reasons.
Firstly, it’s a remake of a beloved comedy whose iconography is embedded in pop culture; even if people haven’t seen it they know the emblem, they know the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and they know the theme song. Put simply, the original is a tough pedigree to live up to; just look at Ghostbusters II. Secondly, there have been concentrated waves of scorn directed at it from day one. News that this reboot would follow an all-female team caused an instant backlash, with a section of the fanbase making their displeasure quite clear online. It didn’t help that early trailers made it look resoundingly mediocre; the initial preview became the most downvoted movie trailer in YouTube history.
Thankfully this new Ghostbusters isn’t the disaster many predicted, and is a solidly entertaining – if slightly patchy – blockbuster comedy. While the story has been retooled it still hits the same basic beats (opens on a haunting, misfit scientists launch ghostbusting business, end of world threat etc.) but the new performers feel distinct from the original team.
The new ensemble has great chemistry together, and while the humour can be hit and miss they’re always a delightful bunch to spend time with. Kate McKinnon is the breakout star of the bunch, with her science geek Holtzmann being a bundle of overexcited energy who steals many of her scenes; you should probably expect to see more of McKinnon from this point on. Surprisingly the biggest comic asset is Chris Hemsworth, playing the impossibly dim-witted secretary Kevin. Hemsworth deadpans the character perfectly, creating an oddly endearing dope who’s clearly gotten by thanks to his looks. On the flipside the villain Rowan (Neil Casey) is undercooked, being presented as a one-dimensional man-child who wants to end the world for… reasons.
The new Ghostbusters clearly isn’t concerned with story, and the choppy editing suggests some chunks were cut out. The heroes suddenly know Rowan’s scheme despite never mentioning it before, and in the finale a team member is welcomed back to the group, despite having never left. The humour takes priority, and Ghostbusters has an abundance of belly laughs and zingers to keep things moving. There is dead air occasionally when director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) lets his cast riff on material that goes nowhere, and set-pieces like the lamentable Exorcist parody should have been cut. That said, the movie has strong character-based comedy, and with McKinnon or Hemsworth around you never have to wait long for the next quality gag.
Ghostbusters is by far the most visual movie Feig has tackled, and he does a laudable job. The ghosts have an eye-catching design; slightly cartoony, but with vivid colours and an ethereal quality. The third act battle drags a touch too long, but it also some eye-catching visuals to hold your attention. That said Feig’s not so inventive in the quiet scenes and is content to stage things in a rather flat, sitcom like manner.
Overall it’s quite easy to get swept along with this new take on Ghostbusters. It has a winning sense of fun and positivity – which makes a welcome change from the dour destruction fests of the summer – and there are plenty of Easter eggs and cameos for fans to spot. Even the end credits are creative, and here is where Feig might have won his biggest battle with this reboot; he’ll make audiences wish for a sequel.
That Fall Out Boy cover of the Ghostbusters theme is still the worst thing ever, though.
Words by Padraig Cotter