Ghostbusters (2016) Review

Ghostbusters (2016) Review

Ghostbusters (2016)
Director: Paul Feig
Screenwriters: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey

It’s a story that audiences know well: three gifted but unconventional geniuses and their available colleague, played by the hottest comedic actors of the time, take on New York City’s paranormal happenings.

In this version of events, scientists Erin (Kristen Wiig) and Abbie (Melissa McCarthy) are estranged friends reunited by the appearance of a ghostly presence. Erin’s belief in ghosts is something that she has spent years quashing in a quest for an academic career. Quirky to the point of unbelievable, Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) is now Abbie’s colleague and best friend.

After subway worker, and local history nut, Patty (Leslie Jones) is attacked by a ghost, she seeks Abbie, Erin and Holtzmann for help. And she mobilises them. Turning them into the Ghostbusters with the help of a borrowed hearse and a gung-ho attitude. Turns out someone with a lot of ghostly knowledge is charging ley lines with the objective of world domination (naturally). So who ya gonna call?

Ghostbusters (2016) was written as a love letter to the original 1984 version. This is both its strength and its downfall. There are so many nods and references to the original that it never really gets off the ground as a film in its own right. It wants us to view it as a unique and separate universe where Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd never donned the boilersuits and particle throwers, yet every other scene it is pointing at references to the fact that they did. As a result, this version alienates any potential new fans by being so referential and cutting them out of what seems like hundreds of in-jokes.

Presumably, this hoard of easter eggs was to increase that feeling of nostalgia and appeal to fans of the original franchise. The writers were so keen to show the audiences how much they loved the original films that they seemingly forgot the more important factor of story. With a running time of nearly two hours, Ghostbusters is long for a comedy. The first half an hour is exposition and explanation. It is easy to argue that in Feig’s and Dippold’s attempts to make it a separate universe to the original, the pacing is slowed.

It is hard to review this film without acknowledging the difficulty it faced before and during release. The targeted online campaign to tank the film, including misogyny and racism directed towards the actors, was huge. The online backlash possibly can’t even be called a backlash seeing as it happened months before anyone had even seen it. In fact, director Paul Feig added a scene in which Erin, Abbie, Patty and Holtzmann check online comments and baulk at the hate.

‘Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts.’

If fans of a beloved franchise are happy having its brand slapped on a lunchbox, it’s difficult to comprehend why there was such a furore about a women-cast reboot. It is worth mentioning while the main characters are women, every other main role is still played by a man. Neil Casey is perfectly deranged and Chris Hemsworth’s goofball Kevin is a gem.

Ghostbusters (1984) had ‘boy’ jokes – crossing the streams, “yes, this man is dickless”, “this chick is toast”. Those jokes don’t alienise women. So jokes about boobs, fancying Chris Hemsworth, and having to deal with sexism shouldn’t be alienating to male viewers. The cast are also very physical, leaning into slapstick and action hero tropes. Kate McKinnon whipping ghosts with a vengeful fury springs to mind.

This is not a women-only film by any means.

The script certainly doesn’t set the world alight, relying heavily on coincidence – a creative writing red flag – and the characters are one dimensional. Patty is angry and sassy, Holzman is weird. But so are the original ghostbusting quartet. Perhaps, thirty-two years later, audiences expected more, were more discerning? Perhaps this is just another way this film has been unfairly judged against the original? But it is important to remember that no-one set out to create an Oscar winner here. It is supposed to be a fun, phantom-fuelled romp.

And it is. Ghostbusters is enjoyable despite all the things it doesn’t get quite right. There are laugh out loud moments, a tongue-in-cheek tackling of tired tropes, a stellar cast, and lots and lots of ghosts. Some of the CGI is clunky, but it doesn’t really affect a viewer’s ability to enjoy the story. Just as the now dated effects from the original don’t stop it being a classic. It is silly, gimmicky, daft, and obviously made by a group of people who love Ghostbusters. Exactly what a Ghostbusters movie should be.

Watching the film in a vacuum, without the context of social media and the dedicated campaign to harm it, it is hard to understand why it bombed so badly. It is a perfectly reasonable way to spend 116 minutes.

Score: 14/24

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Scroll to Top